A State Of Emergency: Ignore At Your Own Risk – Rogan Smith
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A State Of Emergency: Ignore At Your Own Risk

I don’t know about you, but I love horror movies. Absolutely love ‘em. The thing about horror movies is that 95 percent of them are predictable. You can tell what’s going to happen. We know that the hot teen girl who wanders off into the woods alone is going to be killed, the jock who goes out back to investigate a strange sound will come face-to-face with a zombie and the couple who sneaks off to the back room to make out will probably never be seen again. 

One of my favorite tropes features the wise, but often overlooked character who warns of impending doom. They’re usually an old fogey who surfaces early in the film to warn that young girl, the jock and the hot couple not to go down a certain path. The old sage knows the danger that lies ahead, but is often dismissed. By the second act, when all hell breaks loose, we realize that everything he said proved to be true and we should have heeded the warning. 

That’s kinda how it is when we’re dealing with climate change.

There are the environmentalists and those in tune with the earth who try to warn of dangers up ahead, but are dismissed, and then there’s the rest of us who refuse to listen, ignore the warnings and take our chances on our own in the woods, so to speak. We all know how that works out. 

Not many people want to talk about or even think about climate change. It’s not a sexy topic. It doesn’t make exciting headlines unless destruction is involved, and it certainly doesn’t get people talking around the water cooler. In fact, you won’t hear people calling into the talk shows year-round demanding that we address climate change. 

Some people don’t understand it, even after you explain it to them, and others, quite frankly, think the topic is boring. 

Even when writing this column, I refused to put climate change in the headline because I knew some people wouldn’t read it. 

Our Biggest Issue

Last December, while cohosting my radio talk show, Ed Fields Live, longtime journalist, Erica Wells-Cox, appeared on the show for our end-of-year review. 

During our conversation on the stories that dominated 2018, I asked her what she thought the biggest issue was facing our country. Her response: climate change. 

Perhaps she didn’t hear me. That’s what I thought. Sure, I knew climate change was an important issue, but I didn’t think it was thebiggest issue. Not when we had people who had been unemployed for years with no hope of getting a job. Not when we had people who were dying from diseases that may have been cured if they had health insurance. And not when we had children being murdered while still in their school uniform. In my mind, I figured the climate could wait. She didn’t. Apparently, Earth agrees with her. 

Fast-forward to August 2019 when Hurricane Dorian, the strongest and deadliest storm on record in The Bahamas, touched down, killing residents and decimating parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama. The storm quickly swelled into a powerful Category 5 hurricane and hovered menacingly over Grand Bahama for 36 hours. 

Each year, for the past five years, we have seen Category 5 storms in the Atlantic.

The UN Weighs In

The situation has become so dire that last week, United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres called for greater action to address climate change.

He said the climate crisis has generated “turbocharged” hurricanes and storms, which are occurring with greater intensity and frequency.

The UN chief said without urgent action, climate disruption will only get worse.

Time for action.

“First, the worst impact is on countries with the lowest greenhouse emissions. The Bahamas are a very good example of that. Second, it is the poorest and most vulnerable people in those countries who suffer most, and again, the same has happened with the communities in The Bahamas. And third, repeated storms trap countries in a cycle of disaster and debt,” he said.

Our world has changed drastically. For the worst. The only time we seem to notice it, is when Mother Nature strikes back. 

For decades we have ignored environmentalists, dismissing them as kooks who used their activism to frighten the masses. But, their predictions about global warming are coming true right before our eyes. 

Local Environmentalist Weighs In

Environmentalist, Sam Duncombe.

Environmental activist and reEarth President, Sam Duncombe, in an interview for this column, says two words have been “starkly lacking” from any of the government’s responses: climate change.

In fact, she says we’ve already experienced a major consequence of climate change – Hurricane Dorian.

“One would like to think given the annihilation of two of our most populated islands they will start connecting the dots and make some meaningful change. A tell-tale sign will be if they allow Oban to set up their refinery here. If they do that, they either don’t get it or don’t care about getting it. In the end we will pay the price,” she said. 

“Bahamians should be very concerned. Every year since 1990, when reEarth began following these issues, the temperature of the Earth has become hotter. Hotter climates means hotter oceans. Hot oceans is what fuels more ferocious hurricanes which come with significant storm surge. With 85 percent of the Bahamas land mass being five feet or less above sea level that has terrifying consequences for people animals and property. This is entirely unsustainable. Imagine if that had hit Nassau.”

Many countries around the world are experiencing record heat. Tens of thousands of people have already been killed in heatwaves across Europe, India and Russia, for example. 

Rising temperatures and low rainfall are increasing wildfires in many regions. In the US, the number of large wildfires have nearly doubled since 1970. Droughts have also become longer and more extreme around the world, especially in the tropics and subtropics. 

Then, there’s the Arctic death spiral where the sea ice extent in the Arctic has been steadily decreasing. Some scientists estimate that by 2050, the Arctic will be entirely ice-free. That’s only 31 years from now. 

Mountain glaciers are shrinking and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC), a 1.5° C average rise “may put 20-30 percent of species at risk of extinction. If the planet warms by more than 2° C, most ecosystems will struggle.”

In The Hurricane Zone

If we bring it close to home, we have to remember that The Bahamas is a climate-vulnerable nation that is susceptible to sea level increases and hurricanes. These rising sea levels increase our flood risk. We also lie in a hurricane zone. 

We are a low-lying chain of islands with our highest point – Mount Alvernia – located in Cat Island at 206 feet. It’s easily dwarfed by Jamaica’s highest mountain, Blue Mountain Peak, which sits at 7,402 feet, Cuba’s Pico Turquino, which rises to 6,476 feet and, Barbados’ Mount Hillaby at 1,115 feet.   

Now, more than ever, is the time for our political leadership and our citizens to do something about climate change, and to do it fast. 

“We can’t continue to go to the UN and beg for money while we ourselves are not doing what we need to do to protect the 100,000 sq. miles of environment we’ve been entrusted with,” Duncombe said. “As a nation, we need to stop voting against ourselves with regards to emissions from ships. As a flag of convenience, we allow some of the dirtiest boats to be registered with us because our environmental laws are nonexistent or severely lacking in enforcement and penalties.”

“We need to aggressively pursue renewable energy and remove all tariffs which further prohibit people from installing these systems. We need to go to the UN with our island partners and pressure the developed world to reduce emissions. While President Donald Trump did send aid, thoughts and prayers, his administration has rolled back many laws that allow polluter to pollute more. We need climate action from the president.”

We as a nation have to really start thinking about this situation. It truly is a top priority. We won’t have to worry about jobs, the economy, healthcare or crime if our planet becomes uninhabitable because those things won’t matter.

Unlike the horror movies, there is no music to let you know something scary is about to happen. We either heed the warning or we pay the price. 

Ignore at your own risk. 

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