Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Caribbean islands fear climate change threat to tourism

Linda Hutchinson-Jafar in AlertNet: …Tobago, the smaller sister island of industrialised Trinidad, promotes itself as an eco-tourism destination, attracting visitors from around the world to its rainforests, wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs, which host a colourful array of birds and fish.

...Orville London, chief secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly, which administers the island, agrees that the local climate appears to be shifting, bringing larger storms. “We can no longer be considered to be outside of the hurricane belt,” he explains. “Once there was the perception that we were almost immune from hurricanes, but recent changes have indicated that this is not necessarily the case based on the kind of natural challenges we've had in recent years.”

Besides more extreme weather patterns, London notes that other impacts linked with climate change, such as coastal erosion and coral bleaching, are starting to be felt locally. Studies are being carried out to determine how best the island can prepare itself for global warming.

…The Caribbean, mainly comprised of small island nations, is the world’s most tourist-dependent region, and one of the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. Tourism accounts for around 13 percent of the Caribbean’s gross domestic product (GDP), and is an important economic driver. It brings in employment, foreign exchange earnings and foreign investment. But experts say it faces a serious threat from rising sea levels, coral bleaching, increasingly powerful tropical hurricanes and longer periods of drought.

The World Bank estimates the potential impact of climate change on all Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries at $9.9 billion a year, or around 11.3 percent of total annual GDP….

Sunset in Tobago, shot by Reinhard Jann, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Germany license

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