By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter

MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Hurricanes can be catastrophic, both to the economic and social environments of a region. Studies have shown that in the past few years hurricanes have become stronger and deadlier, and have been a main issue of discussion in international regional conferences.

UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres spoke at the Caribbean Community meeting last week about climate change and its effects, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
UN’s secretary general, Antonio Guterres spoke at the Caribbean Community meeting last week about climate change and its effects, photo by Eric Bridiers/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

“It is just two years since I visited the Caribbean in the aftermath of the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017,” said United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, last week during the opening ceremony at the 40th Conference of the Caribbean Community in Saint Lucia.

“Years of hard-won development gains were destroyed in Barbuda and Dominica in only a couple of days,” he noted.

This was not the first time that the Caribbean has faced such devastation and loss.  Hurricanes like Ivan (2004) and Thomas (2010) are still etched in the memories of Caribbean people.

“As climate-related natural disasters grow in frequency and severity, the risks to families and to development overall will only intensify,” Guterres warned participants.

Climate related natural disasters are also being closely monitored by the United States. According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), disruptive and expensive flooding is estimated to be from 300 to 900 percent more frequent within U.S. coastal communities than it was just fifty years ago.

NOAA and its NHC (National Hurricane Center) department have been following the growing number of such events for a long time. As far back as 2003, the NHC noted that ‘Since 1995 there has been an increase in the number of storms, and in particular the number of major hurricanes (category 3, 4, and 5) in the Atlantic’.

A 2013 study published in Climate Dynamics by researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research the proportion of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has increased at a rate of 25 to 30 percent for every Celsius degrees increase. According to the study this increased has been balanced by a similar decrease in weaker hurricanes (Category 1 and 2).

Hurricane Irma, left, and Hurricane Jose, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
Hurricane Irma, left, and Hurricane Jose are pictured in the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 7, 2017, image by NOAA.

For the U.N. secretary general, the message from nature is clear: reduce factors which promote climate change or face increasing devastating consequences.

“The Caribbean experience makes abundantly clear that we must urgently reduce global emissions and work collectively to ensure that global temperature rise does not go beyond 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels,” said Guterres.

The situation is seen as worrisome and Guterres has asked governments and the private sector to present climate action plans to cut greenhouse emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050. He hopes with the reduction the effects of climate change will ease.

“We must massively increase our ambition to advance low-emission and resilient development, including addressing loss and damage from climate impacts,” he told the Caribbean audience.

With the 2019 hurricane season already started in the U.S., NOAA predicts 9 to 15 storms, of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes, including 2 to 4 major hurricanes by the end of the season, on November 30th.

“With the 2019 hurricane season upon us, NOAA is leveraging cutting-edge tools to help secure Americans against the threat posed by hurricanes and tropical cyclones across both the Atlantic and Pacific,” Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, told journalists in May.


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