Hurricane Dorian, from various quarters regionally and internationally, has registered in the minds of many people as a tragedy never to be forgotten.
Its force and ferocity have occasioned among the strongest confirmations to date of the dire predictions about the effects of climate change.
In visiting the Bahamas in the wake of the horrible experience of death and destruction left in its wake, the Secretary General of the United Nations described it as a “Category Hell” weather system. He said its effects on those parts of the Bahamas island chain which came under its sustained onslaught amounted to a situation in which thousands of people would continue to need help with food, water and shelter, while many more now face the uncertainties of a future having lost everything.
He pledged international solidarity with the government and people of the Bahamas. In some areas, he noted that more than three-quarters of all buildings were destroyed, hospitals were left in ruins or became overwhelmed, and schools were turned into rubble.
It is as if this call from nature sought to highlight the urgency of the need for countries in this region to accelerate their plans for building out what the UN chief termed “Climate Resilience” when he addressed the opening session of the last Caricom Summit. This was just two months ago, in Castries. There, Mr Guterres had congratulated the governments in the regional unity grouping for their commitment to addressing the effects of climate change. The devastation which has been witnessed in Abaco and Grand Bahama, following so soon on his warning of the work which still lay ahead, could not have been a more timely illustration of what is up ahead.
He said this represented, for countries in our part of the world, evidence of a “triple punch of injustice”. The first is that the worst impact is being felt by countries with the lowest greenhouse emissions. Second, it is the poorest and most vulnerable in those countries who will suffer the most. And third, repeated storms trap countries in a cycle of disaster and debt.
Bahamian officials, taking the UN chief around on his familiarisation mission, described Dorian’s hellish impact as “Ground Zero,” a comparison with the effects of a nuclear disaster. This forms a major part of today’s Caribbean reality.
Also in Castries, Mr Guterres had urged the leaders to redouble their efforts at addressing what needs to be done, as far as is possible, to prevent what might well be avoidable in the face of what lies ahead. He promised to lead the charge for the significant international assistance which will be required.
Coming out of the summit, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced plans to attend this year’s UN General Assembly, his first since taking office four years ago.
For him and other regional leaders who will be there, the moment could not be more propitious for them to make the case for the kind of assistance necessary.
Climate resilience is the order of today for countries such as ours, and as has been stated, on this score the future is now.