International research team finds that rising temperatures will limit adaptation options in The Bahamas, with implications for the wider Caribbean.
9 March 2023: New evidence from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 funded PROVIDE project, run by leading climate scientists, urban planners and adaptation experts, shows that rising temperatures will increasingly limit the options available to adapt to climate change in The Bahamas, with increased intensity of tropical cyclones, sea level rise and ocean acidification expected to strain infrastructure and affect people’s livelihoods.
The report emphasises that limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C, a global goal established in the 2015 Paris Agreement, is fundamental to reducing pressures on resources, and risks to people.
While the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change findings tell us this goal remains within reach, a very significant gap remains between the emissions reductions that governments have committed to by 2030 and what would be
required to get the world on a 1.5°C track. Without significant increases in global mitigation ambition this decade, overshooting 1.5°C limit becomes increasingly likely, at least temporarily.
Impacts of such an overshoot will materialise globally but be particularly consequential for vulnerable regions.
“If temperatures rise over this limit, there is still an option we can bring them back down again if we can get to net zero emissions and get carbon out of the atmosphere,” commented Dr. Carl-Freiderich Schleussner, from Humboldt University and Climate Analytics, who leads the PROVIDE project.
“But it’s really important for people to recognise that some of the changes that occur at these higher temperature levels – like sea level rise for example – may not be reversible. So policy makers need to have this in mind. Reducing our emissions buys us so much on the adaptation front.”
The Bahamas is entirely classified as a coastal zone, due to its low elevation and small land area. More than 70% of the population resides on the capital island of New Province, concentrating much of the population and assets in a small geographic space of 207km2. It, and other small island developing states, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change with environmental impacts intersect with socioeconomic constraints, like high levels of public debt.
Adaptation and urban planners do not routinely consider the implications of temporary overshoot of 1.5°C and what this would mean locally and regionally for sea level rise, flooding, extreme heat, and other extreme weather events.
“Incorporation of potential overshoots into adaptation planning is crucial to avoid maladaptation”, says Dr. Schleussner.
To share its findings the PROVIDE project has set up an innovative web tool, Climate Risk Dashboard. Built for everyday users and adaptation practitioners alike, users can explore different warming scenarios and its implications, and eventually be able to input their own specifications for adaptation options and see what kind of warming scenarios these correspond with. The final version will be available in 2024.