Dark side of climate change, uncovered — implications for the Caribbean

Our climate is changing rapidly. And sometimes the changes in our environment can yield unexpected, unwanted secrets.

Take Mount Everest, for example – Earth’s highest mountain and a magnet for brave mountaineers since the 1950s. The fact is that the snow on this towering peak is melting. Things that were preserved in the ice and snow are emerging. The picture is not pretty.

(Photo: vice.com)

The perfectly preserved dead bodies of at least 200 climbers are known to exist on the mountain. While a number were retrieved by a rescue team in 2015, more bodies, once thought to be lost forever, are being found. The stuff they brought with them and left is now being uncovered: literally tonnes of trash – and over 5,000 kilograms of human waste, buried in the snow.

This majestic mountain was recently described as “the world’s highest garbage dump.”

Yes, you read that right. Human poop, which the Mount Everest Biogas Project is trying to recycle in an environmentally friendly way. But a huge pollution problem remains, and it’s growing.

“Areas that were hidden are now opening. Diseases are being uncovered”

— Carlinton Burrell, Project Manager at the Climate Change Innovation Centre in Kingston

“When it comes to climate change, we often don’t look at the indirect impact it can have,” says Carlinton Burrell, Project Manager at the Climate Change Innovation Centre in Kingston. “Areas that were hidden are now opening. Diseases are being uncovered.”

There have been almost two million reported cases of dengue and more than 700 deaths this year.

On the public health side, Burrell pointed out, the number of dengue fever cases in our region is increasing rapidly, due to higher temperatures and more humid conditions in some places. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) dengue fever “has grown dramatically around the world in recent decades.” Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Christopher Tufton reports that in Latin America and the Caribbean, there have been almost two million reported cases of dengue and more than 700 deaths this year.

Aedes aegypti mosquito

Carlinton Burrell mentions another concern: species of mosquito such as the Aedes aegypti, which transmits dengue and other diseases, have been found in unusual places, including the western United States, for the first time. In 2018, the Aedes albopictus or Asian Tiger mosquito was found for the first time in Jamaica in 2018.

Aedes albopictus or Asian Tiger mosquito

Back in the Himalayas, it’s getting warmer too. Glaciers are melting. Snowfall is becoming harder to predict. There is the added danger of avalanches. Several cleanups have taken place in recent years, but the number of climbers is not decreasing. Sometimes there are “traffic jams” up to the peak.

Photo: tripadvisor.com

The mountain that so many people love to climb has become overcrowded. In May this year two climbers died after getting stuck in a line of 320 people going to the top. The main cause of death is altitude sickness.

Mount Everest glaciers melting revealing mounds of debris and dead bodies (Photo: bbc.com)

According to a recent report, in Nepal itself (where Mount Everest is located) dengue cases are rising in the highland areas. Up until last year, dengue was only known in the low-lying tropical areas of the country. Now the hills are getting warmer.

Well, climate change is uncovering many things, so we should be prepared for more surprises.