Rising temperatures worldwide affect the climate resulting in environmental changes and extreme weather events which can have severe impacts on the global population. These include more overall precipitation, more frequent and intense storms and diminished air quality as warmer temperatures can produce pollutants in the atmosphere. Changes to the cycling of water in and out of Earth’s atmosphere due to rising global average temperatures are associated with widespread shifts in weather patterns. Extreme weather events such as heat waves and large storms are likely to become more frequent and more intense as a result of climate change, to which the Caribbean is particularly vulnerable. 

Some of the major environmental and climate-related changes particularly affecting the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) [1] include:


  • Sea Level Rise:

Areas of low elevation are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise and are impacted by flooding due to storm surges and rising tides. In the region, over 134 million people live on or near the coast, who are vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by climate change. 


  • Coral Bleaching:

Coral reef ecosystems are negatively affected by warmer temperatures resulting in coral bleaching. In the WCR, average coral cover declined from 34.8% in the 1970s to just 16.3% by 2014 and the region has been subject to a series of major coral bleaching events in 1998, 2005, 2010 and then at distributed sites from 2014 through 2017 (UNEP, 2020). 


  • Ocean Acidification:

Ocean acidification occurs due to an increase in carbon dioxide levels which result in a reduction of pH levels. It negatively impacts the growth and structural integrity of the marine environment.


  • Eutrophication

63% of untreated wastewater from urban and industrial sources is discharged into rivers and oceans (UNEP, 2020), leading to eutrophication and increases in nutrients that produce large volumes of algal blooms and other aquatic plants, decreasing oxygen levels needed to sustain marine life. Increased eutrophication has also been linked to ocean acidification. The Gulf of Mexico and North Brazil Large Marine Ecosystems are already at high risk from eutrophication; while the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem is currently at medium risk but is expected to rise to high risk by 2030 (UNEP, 2020). 


[1] The Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) comprises the insular and coastal States and Territories with coasts on the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, as well as waters of the Atlantic Ocean adjacent to these States and Territories and includes 28 island and continental countries.

Photocredit: Pixabay Peggychoucair

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