‘Gravest challenge facing humanity’: Bahamas PM sounds alarm on climate change

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis says many Bahamians, including many residents of New Providence, still fail to grasp the nature of, and the threat to their existence as a low-lying highly vulnerable archipelago as he warned of the impact of climate change.

Minnis warned that “even as we seek to design strategies for resilience, we have to understand the wide-scale and comprehensive nature of the threat of climate change, the gravest challenge facing humanity”.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis warns of the ‘existential threat’ posed to Caribbean islands from the effects of climate change.

He told the 29th annual Business Outlook conference that while the effects of the global climate emergency have been gathering pace for decades, the passage of Hurricane Dorian on September 1 last year, “has helped to dramatize the existential threat of climate change to The Bahamas.”

The hurricane, a Category 5 storm, has been blamed for at least 70 deaths and more than 200 people missing, destruction estimated at US$3.4 billion and Minnis said: “the manner in which we rebuild the communities affected by Hurricane Dorian will serve as templates of resilience in the face of the vulnerability and the threats posed by our increasingly warming planet”.

Hurricane Dorian resulted in catastrophic damage to the Bahamas during the 2019 Hurricane Season

He said when the notion of “existential threat’ is used, it means that communities and countries face a threat to their existence and to being utterly destroyed.

“The unprecedented fires now raging in Australia have destroyed communities, which physically no longer exist. Marsh Harbour was not damaged! It was mostly destroyed. Dominica was almost utterly destroyed by Hurricane Irma.

“Some Small Island Developing States in the Pacific…may no longer exist in our lifetime or the lifetime of our children.”

— Prime Minister of Bahamas, Dr Hubert Minnis

“Ragged Island was not damaged. It was destroyed. Some Small Island Developing States in the Pacific may be entirely engulfed by rising sea waters and may no longer exist in our lifetime or the lifetime of our children,” Minnis said, warning “it is conceivable that one or more of our sister Caribbean countries may be destroyed as sovereign, independent countries in our lifetime”.

Speaking on the theme “A New Era: Resilience in the face of vulnerability,” Prime Minister Minnis said that the number of climate refugees around the world may explode, threatening wars and world peace.

“What would be the state of The Bahamas today, if Hurricane Dorian sat over New Providence for almost 30 hours, destroying many homes, businesses and critical infrastructure?

“Even as we seek to design strategies for resilience, we have to understand the wide-scale and comprehensive nature of the threat of climate change.”

— Prime Minister of Bahamas, Dr Hubert Minnis

“I fear that many Bahamians, including many residents of New Providence, still fail to grasp the nature of, and the threat to our existence as a low-lying highly vulnerable archipelago,” he said, noting that on the northern foreshore of New Providence “we regularly experience the effects of high tides which inundate our roads with seawater and sand.”

“Even as we seek to design strategies for resilience, we have to understand the wide-scale and comprehensive nature of the threat of climate change, the gravest challenge facing humanity,” he said, adding that because of the unprecedented nature of Hurricane Dorian, the country staged its first-ever international donor’s conference here earlier this week with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“Our heating climate results in the increased severity and frequency of hurricanes…and also destroys our natural defences against such storms.”

— Prime Minister of Bahamas, Dr Hubert Minnis

He said the government will also engage international partnerships with various corporations and educational institutions on the use of various materials and technologies in building for resilience in the face of climate change.

Dorian was the most destructive hurricane to have hit the Bahamas in the history of recorded storms.

“Our heating climate results in the increased severity and frequency of hurricanes for our archipelago, and also destroys our natural defences against such storms,” Minnis said, promising to address the various measures “we must take in this new era to address resilience in the face of the gravest threat to our existence and sustainability as a nation.”