By Sam Duncombe, ReEarth Bahamas
Dorian feels like the greatest shock to the system that The Bahamas has ever experienced. It’s a tragedy of historic proportions. But what makes this tragedy worse is that we can’t say we weren’t warned.
For decades scientific reports and multilateral agencies like the UN, IMF and IADB have highlighted The Bahamas’ uniquely vulnerable position when it comes to climate change. They’ve forecast the acute danger to our low-lying islands using the very words we now see put to work describing the damage and devastation we see in Dorian’s very real wake. The only inaccuracy was how soon this type of monster would hit.
While they occasionally paid lip service to this existential threat in forums like the UN, our leaders have acted like it was business as usual. And worse yet, they still do. This must change. These hundreds of reports, and in our own lived experience today as residents of a country ravaged by one of the strongest hurricanes on record, show how much more we deserve – and must demand – from our leaders if we are to survive and thrive as a nation and be truly #BahamasStrong.
They know, and have long known, what is at stake. Four years ago Prime Minister Christie spoke at the UN four years ago about how sea level rise could “irreversibly change the geography and ecology” of a country like The Bahamas, threatening our “food security, water scarcity and energy security”.
There may be many factors that contribute to this climate vulnerability that are not within our control, but how we choose to live and make our living as a nation certainly is. Yet we seem set on a suicidal death race to drown ourselves as fast as we can. Fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal clearly created the devastating situation we now find ourselves in. These outdated energy sources caused the global warming, sea level rise and more intense hurricanes that were responsible for the category five monster that was Dorian.
Yet our government has given authorization to the presumptuously named Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC), to use our country to drill for oil. If this is not shooting ourselves in the foot in the most spectacular, self-destructive and insulting way, I don’t know what is.
It is absolutely crucial that the world keeps global temperature rise this century below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and pursues efforts to limit temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius if we are to stand any chance of limiting the sea rise and the warming oceans that gave birth to Dorian. Last year, climate scientists said that if the world is to meet this goal, set out in the 2015 Paris climate accord, humanity must cut its use of fossil fuels in half by 2030 and eliminate them altogether by mid-century.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said it best himself when he described how warming ocean waters, a consequence of climate change, were “mobilized into instruments of death and destruction”. Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly during the recent United Nations Climate Change Summit, he called on the international community to “treat the global climate emergency as the greatest challenge facing humanity”.
Now we call on our government to do the same. We must revoke this oil drilling decision. It is an insult to the people of The Bahamas, the memories of those lost in this appalling tragedy, and a lazy policy decision. It also makes us hypocrites. We offer these licenses while, from the other side of our mouths we appeal to the international community to save us. Save us from ourselves, apparently.
Beyond making ourselves agents of our own accelerated demise, we only have to look at what has happened with Equinor in Grand Bahamas as a result of Hurricane Dorian – the spilling of an estimated 5 million gallons of oil into our environment – to see the additional dangers that oil poses in a hurricane prone environment like The Bahamas.
There may be few things we have control over in this mess of biblical proportions, but whether or not we give succor to this dirty industry in our own waters is one of them. What we must do is clear – in the reports of the scientists and in the faces and heavy hearts of those who have now lost everything.
We must demand more from our leaders and our leaders should ask more of themselves. Oil and fossil-fuel driven climate change is a clear and present danger to our country and children. It’s time we act now to stop this suicidal mission and scrap oil drilling licenses in The Bahamas.