Originally published in It’s Getting Hot In Here.
Over the years, many island nations have fought hard to be heard in the international arena about the effects that global warming is already having on them. Some islands have already been lost in the Pacific, and the forecast is that many more will go in the coming decades, especially if nothing is done to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions globally. Now, in the Caribbean, the picture is looking bleak as well. Today, the top newspaper in the Dominican Republic reported that global warming will eliminate tourism by 2050 under business-as-usual.
The Caribbean islands, for the exception of Cuba and Haiti, are largely dependent on tourism. Coastal development for the purpose of tourism is growing in the region at a high rate despite a recent regional decline in tourism. In the Caribbean, tourism accounts for 15% of the gross domestic product, with higher rates in many islands, and over 2.4 million jobs (about 16%). It has also pushed populations towards the coasts. For example, in the Dominican Republic, over 50% of the population lives near coasts where a 6-m sea-level rise would plunge them into the sea.
Recently, the Dominican government received a report detailing that, under their estimates, sea-level will rise by 6 meters under business-as-usual by 2050, eliminating the tourism industry and sending the country into complete chaos. The same would happen around the Caribbean. The fast development the region is seeing may be completely obliterated by global warming, and the same case goes for much of the rest of the developing world. The outcome would be to put billions of people in situations of poverty, hunger, and violence.
There are good reasons why people in the developing world should have high hopes. One reason is that, aside from what governments are doing (whether it be block negotiations or push for tough measures), industries are rushing towards making a profit out of solving the climate, and that’s a great thing. Companies like Ausra, eSolar, Solel, Nanosolar, Google, Honda, GE, Vestas, Aracruz, and many others are working hard to make renewable energy, transportation, and products cheap, feasible, and appropriate for smart, sustainable development. We are already seeing every major industry making significant investments in the solutions we need. Of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t need governments to step in. We especially need huge subsidies to shut down coal plants globally and replace fossil fuels with renewables.
Another good reason is that people are standing up everywhere. We are seeing people getting together to deploy solutions, taking action to shut down fossil fuel projects, and even elect leaders who will do something about global warming. The fact that climate criminals in Washington are hindering progress should be no reason for us to lose hope. Within a few years, we may be seeing ourselves agreeing that the entire world can be carbon neutral within two decades – and that’s where we need to get ourselves for the sake of uncertainty, urgency, and the billions of people who will have to suffer as a result of something they didn’t do. The good thing is, as I show in this recently released report, that we can do it while booming economies and improving the quality of life of everybody. Let’s do it!