Report outlines climate change risk to Bermuda and other overseas territories
Sea-level rise and more frequent and intense weather events pose the greatest climate change threat to Bermuda and the other British Overseas Territories, according to a new report.
The UK Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership released the report on the effect that climate change is having on the coastal and marine environments around the Caribbean and Mid-Atlantic UKOTs.
MCCIP’s Report Card on the region, which covers an estimated population of 220,000 people across the islands of Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos, said: “Sea-level rise and changes in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events (heatwaves, extreme temperature and heavy precipitation, tropical cyclones, storm surges, and coastal, river and rain-induced flooding) constitute the biggest climate change risks to the islands.
“The economic and social impacts of extreme weather events on Caribbean and Mid-Atlantic UKOTs are of national significance. For example, Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 were some of the most intense storms recorded in the region and caused widespread devastation across the UKOTs of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands.”
The report said that sea temperature rise, especially when marine heatwaves meet coral reefs causing bleaching, is a “major threat” to habitat and species.
“Some marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances and interactions, with important consequences for fisheries and the provision of other ecosystem services,” the report said.
“As temperatures continue to rise, further major impacts on marine ecosystems are to be expected in the future.
“These climate change impacts are exacerbated by other human activities, such as coastal development, the effects of which combine to diminish the resilience of ecosystems to adapt to those changing conditions.”
MCCIP brings together scientists, government and NGOs to “provide co-ordinated advice on climate change impacts and adaptation around our coast and in our seas”.
The report lists three priority issues identified by a regional working group of scientific experts and policymakers.
The first priority is the impact on food security with consequences on the sustainability of fisheries.
The second priority areas are changes in coral reefs, the effects on the health of ecosystems and marine food webs, and the impacts on tourism.
Lastly are the impacts on natural coastal protection from erosion and flooding. “Climate change risks are exacerbated by the degradation and loss of coastal ecosystems due to human activities.”
The report added: “Climate change presents significant risks for Caribbean and Mid-Atlantic OTs and there is a need for substantial climate action to reduce vulnerability and exposure. All the OTs have either begun development of, or approved climate change policies with the aim of achieving low-carbon and climate resilient development objectives.
“Across these policies, the importance of mainstreaming climate change into all government strategies, spending and investment decisions is highlighted.“