Making it rain: Environmentalists have urged islanders to remember they are merely ‘tenants’ of this planet. *File photo
Making it rain: Environmentalists have urged islanders to remember they are merely ‘tenants’ of this planet. *File photo

A new UN report has Bermudian environmentalists lamenting the impending effects of climate change on the island, including rising sea levels, more rain and the harmful impact on the island’s food supply.

The report, issued last week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warns of the risks posed by global warming and some world leaders have used the report to call for action.

Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce Chairman Stuart Hayward has labelled the report “another call…for the inhabitants of this planet to remember that we’re not the designers, we’re not the makers. We’re the tenants.”

Mr. Hayward said overseas crops could be harmed by global warming, meaning that Bermuda’s food supply could be affected by climate change. “We’re dependent on the labour and agricultural land and expertise of other countries for 85 per cent of our food consumption,” he said.

Mr. Hayward said Bermuda still has high energy consumption rates and that the island will likely continue to experience more intense rain as a result of climate change.

“It would be easier to feel helpless if we weren’t such a factor,” he said. “While we’re small, we’re a densely populated oceanic island. Our consumption per capita in terms of fossil fuels and energy are high.”

He added, “Our lifestyle, our standard of living, which is different from our quality of life, is high on the consumption chain. Less developed countries look to Bermuda’s standard as their desirable model.”

Dr. David Wingate, a Bermudian scientist and conservationist, said: “Every time they update these reports there is a higher percentage of evidence that shows the predictions are accurate — that this is man-caused. The most recent surge in temperature and the burning of fossil fuels is linked.

Low-lying areas

In Bermuda’s case, Dr. Wingate said: “the slope of the land along our coastline is fairly steep. That means that the loss of land to rising sea levels would not be as great here as in other places”.

Still, low-lying areas near sea-level such as Pembroke Marsh basin behind Hamilton, the airport and a lot of development along the south shore “that was put too near the coast in the first place” could be affected, said Dr. Wingate.

“One factor that may not have been considered is that we’re a calcium carbonate island and increased acidity in the rainfall and the ocean could lead to the dissolving of limestone rock. However subtlety or marginally, it’s bound to effect us.”

Eugene Dean, who is one of the management committee members of Greenrock, which is an environmental advocacy charity based on the island,  said: “These things just show us that the way we’re living is out of balance with the earth’s natural cycle. It’s far from sustainable. 

“We’re consuming the earth’s resources at a rate that’s far more rapid than can be replenished.”

The Bermuda-based insurance and reinsurance company Catlin Group Limited released a statement saying the report’s conclusions “emphasize the need for substantially more research into the state of our oceans, which play a major role in weather-related risks and coastal erosion, as well as impact the economic wellbeing of hundreds of millions of people living near coastlines.”

Catlin is the title sponsor of a survey that documents the composition and health of oceans. Currently, the team behind the survey is undertaking a comprehensive record of the world’s coral reefs.

“The sensitivity of these reefs to various changes makes them the oceans’ early-warning system,” said the company through a statement. 

“Coral reefs also produce economic value estimated at $375 billion annually. The IPCC’s statement that corals are rapidly declining and will, most likely, have disappeared by 2050 makes the work of the Catlin Seaview Survey even more important.”