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.”

We cannot rely on government. We, the people, must insist on and spark a global crisis of conscience. For too long, at our own collective peril, we’ve tuned out Earth’s call.

Now, answering that call is the nonprofit Earth's Call, a foundation the mission of which is to accelerate a global movement to transform the world.

Most notably, Earth’s Call aims to catalyze and mobilize young people around the globe to be those instruments of change. Importantly, Earth’s Call will host a platform for the voices of these young people, who will be able to tell and share both their stories and insights with a worldwide audience.

Earth’s Call will also stress the importance of moving the needle forward. “Young people must not feel that these problems are too great for them to make any discernible impact, nor that they are too powerless,” says Spike Buckley, Earth’s Call Board President. “On the contrary, Earth’s Call wants to emphasize how even one small contributing factor in each household makes a difference, and how young people can lead by becoming environmental change-makers right in their homes, schools and communities.”