Bermuda and Climate Change – Should we be educating about it?

September 21, 2019 Island Teacher

Bermuda and Climate Change

For the Bahamas, hurricanes like Dorian are now an existential threat claims respected Bahamian journalist Sloan Smith. Looking at the photographs and video footage of Abacos and Grand Bahama, it is not hard to imagine that there is some truth in Ms Smiths claim. Indeed, the residents of Barbuda and the British Virgin islands would likely share those sentiments after their frightening encounter with Hurricane Irma.

What makes these storms so unusual is their frequency. The Royal Gazette (Bermuda) also picks up this point in their opinion piece. The faded hurricane shutters have the previous hurricane encounters etched deep into the plywood. There is a consensus-building that seems to support the idea that we are getting more powerful and more frequent weather encounters. For some, this may be a political point, but it is a fact. Rising temperatures don’t make hurricanes more frequent, but they do help make them more devastating. Each of the last five years has seen Category 5 storms pass through the Atlantic, brewed over hotter than usual waters.

“While the science has yet to come in on the specifics of just how much worse climate change made Dorian, we already know enough to say that warming worsened the damage,”

Penn State University Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science Michael Mann and Texas A&M University Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Andrew Dessler.

Jill Trepanier, a hurricane climatologist and associate professor in the Department of Geography and Anthropology at Louisiana State University makes a fascinating and profoundly reflective statement in the following quote,

“For every degree Celsius or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, that the oceans warm, hurricane wind speeds increase by about 7%.

Given that we are witnessing these catastrophic events in the islands to our South, what should Bermuda do about Climate Change? Several very detailed studies should probably be dusted off the shelf and read quite carefully. The Bermuda National Trust produced one of the principal ones and perhaps the most comprehensive.

This study talks about events in the future, but we should also be thinking about how to respond to very devastating hurricanes like Irma and Dorian. We have infrastructure that is stronger and more likely to survive than tin and wooden constructions; nevertheless, we would be expected to suffer significant disruption and damage. Such damage would probably include our ports and airport runway. The new terminal should be higher, but to what extent it could cope would remain to be seen.

Our young people are going to have to face up to the  challenges and be able to make some tough decisions.  It is essential that they are educated about this issue and given a voice to speak.  Most us us will be long gone one day.  The next generation must be part of the solution.  In order to participate in this challenge, educators must embrace the science, the reality and the human story of what is unfolding.  This issue transcends politics, nations and people groups. 

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