Bahamas Pummeled for Others' Sins

The Bahamas is a small Caribbean country with a tiny carbon footprint, but suffers disproportionate effects of the climate crisis

September 11, 2019

1:27 pm

Of the world’s countries most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, it is safe to say that the Bahamas is not one of them.

In a 2018 European Commission report ranking all global countries and industries, the Bahamas came in approximately 163rd, emitting just 4,075 kilotons per CO2 equivalent annually.

For perspective, note that China, the world’s worst offender, annually emits more than 12 million kilotons per CO2 equivalent.

As the Bahamas noted in its UNFCCC report, citing World Bank statistics, the country’s “contribution to the total global greenhouse gas emissions is almost negligible,” at 0.01%.

And yet, despite its barely existent carbon footprint, the Bahamas is squarely in the crosshairs of changing weather patterns, bearing the brunt of the worst aspects of the planet’s climate crisis.

Those seeking proof need only look at the near obliteration of much of the island after being pummeled by Hurricane Dorian last week. As the Guardian reports, citing UN estimates, 76,000 Bahamians have been left homeless by the category-5 storm, “one of the most powerful Caribbean storms on record.”

And to put that in perspective, the number of Bahamians left homeless is approximately 20% of the entire country’s population of 395,000.

The helplessness and frustration of Bahamians was articulated last week in a New York Times op-ed piece by Erica Moiah James, founding director and chief curator of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, and an assistant professor in the department of art and art history at the University of Miami.

“We Bahamians listen to climate deniers in rich countries who are oblivious or indifferent to those who bear the weight for their wonderful lives,” wrote James. “Meanwhile, the water rises from the ground in our yards because the water table is so high during high tide, and plants we once depended upon no longer grow. We experience too much rain or too little rain, and fresh water supplies are increasingly contaminated by rising sea levels.”

And it’s not just the Bahamas — the entire Caribbean is vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis.

In a subsequent interview with U.S. radio host Amy Goodman, James noted that, “the Bahamas is one part of the Caribbean. I think every year — you know, it’s Puerto Rico one year, it’s the Virgin Islands another year, it’s Dominica another year, it’s Haiti another year. We know the language of this horror all too well.”

As the October 2018 IPCC report clearly warns, unless drastic action is taken globally to change habits and practices, the planet will face irreversible consequences. And, as James notes in her op-ed, even though the island nation has virtually no carbon footprint, “places like the Bahamas will be the first to be consumed by the ocean.”

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