How vulnerable is Cayman to climate change: Here are some stats | Loop Cayman Islands

The content originally appeared on: Cayman Compass

The Cayman Islands is among a group of Non-UN Members/Associate Members of the Regional Commissions that are recognized by the United Nations as Small Island Developing States (SIDS). SIDS are a group of developing countries that are small island countries which tend to share similar sustainable development challenges. These include small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments. Given these factors, SIDS have long been recognized as being particularly at risk to climate change.

SIDS are often described as being on the “frontlines of climate change,” as “hot spots of climate change.” Due to their proximity to water, SIDS are especially vulnerable to the marine effects of climate change like sea level rise, ocean acidification, marine heatwaves, and the increase in extreme weather, such as hurricanes. Changing precipitation patterns also cause droughts.

So how vulnerable is Cayman to climate change? Let’s take a look at some numbers…

Hurricanes

Acording to a ranking system produced by Hurricanecity.com, the Cayman Islands is hit by tropical storms and hurricanes every 1.71 years, putting it in 5th position for being the most vulnerable to these kinds of extreme weather events out of 139 cities and islands throughout the coastal United States, Mexico and all Caribbean Islands. Cayman is also the most affected area in the Caribbean sea, having been affected by extreme weather 89 times since 1871.

Sea-level rise

Using data produced by the ISCIENCES digital elevation model, Cayman is the 29th most vulnerable country in a list of 154 countries, to sea-level rise.

In the Caribbean region, Cayman was found to be the fifth most vulnerable country to sea level rise, after the Bahamas (which is the second most vulnerable in the world), Cuba, Antigua & Barbuda and Belize.

Heatwaves

2020 was among the three warmest years in the Caribbean, and the second warmest year in South America, with, 1.0?C, 0.8?C and 0.6?C above the long-term average of 1981-2010 climatological reference period, respectively. Reports from the Cayman Islands National Weather Service predict that March 22 will have a 50 per cent probability of above normal temperatures.

Climate Change Mitigation

So how is Cayman doing in its climate change mitigation efforts?

Mitigating climate change is about reducing the release of greenhouse gas emissions that are warming our planet. Mitigation strategies include retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient; adopting renewable energy sources like solar, wind and small hydro; helping cities develop more sustainable transport such as buses and electric vehicles, and biofuels; promoting more sustainable uses of land and forests, growing trees and promoting soil health, which helps to absorb Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere and reducing use of unsustainable products that contribute to greenhouse gases such as single use plastics.

Environmental advocates in Cayman have argued that the biggest culprits, causing Cayman to be more vulnerable to climate change impacts are in the development/ construction sector. According to a 2021 survey by Amplify Cayman, 78.8 per cent of respondents feel that environmental needs are not sufficiently considered for new developments.

Deforestation

According to Global Forest Watch, From 2001 to 2020, Cayman Islands lost 507 hectares of tree cover, equivalent to 140 kilotonnes of CO2e emissions, 27 per cent of which consisted of humid primary forest. (The majority of this occurred between 2016 and 2018)

In 2017, the Cayman Islands lost 74 hectares of forest, an increase of 226 per cent over the historical average and an estimated increase in forest-related emissions of 192 per cent over the historical average, according to Global Forest Watch.

Plastic pollution

According to recent data, out of 167 countries, Cayman was the 51st in terms of highest plastic pollution per capita.

Energy use

In 2019, Cayman consumed 0.655 billion kWh of electricity per year, with only 0.016 billion kWh of energy per year being produced from renewable sources on island. (World Bank)

CO2 emissions

The Cayman Islands has the sixth highest fossil CO2 emissions per capita in Latin America and the Caribbean. Fossil CO2 emissions in Cayman reached 8.01 metric tons per capita in 2017 (Statista) and according to Cayman’s National Energy Policy, in 2014, Cayman’s greenhouse gas emission levels were 12.3 metric tons per capita. This is significantly higher than the world-average per capita emissions of 4.2 metric tons according to CDIAC, Global Carbon Project, and UN. The average for Latin America and the Caribbean is 2.6 metric tons.