A wire service report told us that the scientists at the European Union’s Joint Research Centre in Italy used satellite images to track the way beaches have changed over the past 30 years and simulated how global warming might affect them in the future
Amid the worldwide fear surrounding the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has come more news from scientists of further damage to the Earth by climate change. We’re not surprised that the warning has been largely ignored, given the intense preoccupation with COVID-19, which has to date recorded 95,781 cases, including 3,284 deaths, and shook the world economy.
But even as the international community battles COVID-19, we cannot ignore the fact that man’s actions are placing stress on planet Earth — stress that has the potential to be just as devastating as the coronavirus.
According to scientists, half of the world’s sandy beaches could disappear by the end of the century if climate change continues unchecked.
A wire service report told us that the scientists at the European Union’s Joint Research Centre in Italy used satellite images to track the way beaches have changed over the past 30 years and simulated how global warming might affect them in the future.
One member of the research team, Mr Michalis Vousdoukas, is reported as saying the study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change , shows that by the end of the century about half of the beaches in the world will experience more than 100 metres of erosion. “It’s likely that they will be lost,” he said.
The scientists argue that the extent to which beaches are at risk depends on how much average global temperatures increase by the year 2100. Greater temperature increases, they noted, mean more sea level rise and more violent storms in some regions, which will cause more beaches to vanish.
This should be cause for concern in the Caribbean, as our region sits within the path of hurricanes that, over the past few years, have grown in strength and ferocity, the most recent being Hurricane Dorian last year.
But even outside of those dangerous hurricanes, evidence of the damaging effects of climate change have been evident in Jamaica, especially at Hellshire and other beaches further along the island’s south coast, for some time now.
The situation in Hellshire and, in particular, St Elizabeth is exceptionally bad as the sea has encroached on what was once vibrant beaches. The upshot is a reduction in recreational areas for Jamaicans and visitors alike.
And, even more important, the loss of natural barriers to waves and storm surges can have a direct impact on infrastructure, homes, livelihoods, mangroves, and breeding grounds for fish and other marine life.
Just last November the World Bank projected that flooding from storm surges will cost Jamaica US$136.4 million in damage annually. The economic implications of the losses we have highlighted will be significant. That is why the State must ensure that its coastal protection and beach recovery programmes are properly formulated and implemented.
The study released by the scientists on Monday did not name Jamaica in the list of countries that will be severely affected by beach coastline loss. However, it included the United States and Mexico — two countries in this region — as among those with more than 7,500 miles of coastline at risk. It is not unrealistic, therefore, to assume that Jamaica, and indeed our Caribbean neighbours, will be affected.
As such, the scientists’ recommendations of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and site-specific coastal planning to mitigate beach erosion are urgent.
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