ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Environmentalists have outlined a series of recommendations they believe residents should adopt to help deal with climate change, while at the same time rapping authorities for failing to act quickly to deal with the issue.
Dr Brian Cooper of the National Park Authority’s Environment Unit and marine biologist John Mussington said Antigua & Barbuda should have been more advanced in laying the necessary groundwork.
Mussington, a Barbudan, took issue with authority’s failure to prepare for the effects of the phenomenon, which international experts say will lead to changes in temperatures and sea level rises, among other problems.
“Do we have a policy on tourism which takes into consideration what is predicted to happen? So for example, tourism is a major part of the economy … now if you know that climate change is happening, the common sense thing is that you should have a policy in place as of yesterday to say that, ‘ok we expect that our coastline is going to be more severely impacted so for future developments the setback should be x, y and z,’” Mussington said.
Mussington told The Voice of the People programme on OBSERVER Radio that Barbuda is already in a full-fledged drought because there has been far less rainfall there than on the mainland.
“We’re in a straight drought already in Barbuda. So far for the year, we only have about 10 inches of rain. Quite a few of the months, I think February was very bad,” he said. “For June we only recorded about 0.17 of an inch, which means that we are already there.”
Climatologist of the Antigua & Barbuda Meteorological Office Dale Destin has said that conditions are likely to worsen in the two-island state over the next three months.
Dr Cooper, another panelist, recommended that more residential homes be built on hillsides to avoid using agricultural lands for housing.
He said the country should also look at using land more efficiently by constructing multi-storey buildings.
As it relates to alternative energy, Dr Cooper said this and other regional states have moved too slowly to adapt.
“Right now natural gas seems to be enjoying a boom but the fossil fuels are going to become more expensive and we have an abundance of sunshine, we have an abundance of wind and other sources of energy and I think it’s far past the time when we ought to be doing a lot more,” he said.
In 2010, a UN report warned that most countries need to prepare for a half-metre sea level rise, which in some cases could translate into sea water encroaching between one and 100 metres inland.
Diann Black-Layne of the Environment Division said at that time this could mean that up to two per cent of Antigua & Barbuda’s land mass will be reclaimed by the sea if we experience a one-metre rise, and five per cent in the case of a two-metre increase.