Climate change

Should Statians care about climate change?

Climate change has increasingly been in the news with the release of the UN’s climate reports and the ongoing documentary on Showtime. Does this matter to Statians?

It does. Climate change is already affecting us in many ways and will continue to affect us, our children and our grandchildren for many generations to come. There are both direct effects and indirect effects.

Climate change includes a rising sea level, change in rainfall and hurricanes and change in the underwaterworld 

Direct effects include rising sea levels that may eventually destroy Lower Town, where our power station, water plant and port are located. Other direct effects may change our rainfall, increase the Sahara dust and change the paths and strength of hurricanes, although there is no clear answer yet as to exactly what the effect on hurricanes will be. The beautiful corals that attract scuba divers to our waters may gradually die as the ocean warms and becomes more acid. Ocean changes are also likely to affect the fish.

Price of imported food will go up

The indirect effects may be more important to us than the direct effects. Part of Statia’s food is imported from the U.S., and the western U.S. has been experiencing increasing drought. Some ranchers have sold their herds and farmers have given up planting crops because there isn’t enough water. Climate change is expected to gradually make this situation worse. This raises the price of the imported food we eat. Other food exporting countries like Brazil are likely to be similarly affected in years to come.

Effects of increased price of fossil fuels

Another indirect effect comes from efforts by the large nations to slow climate change by increasing the price of fossil fuels. We will experience this in increased prices of gasoline, gasoil and electricity, increased shipping costs and increased prices of things that require a lot of energy to produce like concrete, steel, plastics, paint, and automobiles. NuStar’s business could be affected, and NuStar is our largest private employer. As fuel prices rise, so will air fares and this affects tourism.

But what can we do about this anyway?

We can and should do two things. We should plan for the changes so that they do us as little harm as possible. This is called  “mitigation” in climate change jargon. And we should do our part to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Move valuable assets to higher ground

What mitigation is needed? The Dutch are the world’s experts in dealing with the sea. We should ask them for help in  preparing an assessment of the effects of climate change on Statia, and the appropriate mitigation. The plan should look at the likely effects of rising sea level on lower town and consider alternatives such as moving valuable assets to higher ground or building seawalls to protect the assets where they stand.

Who should pay for mitigation? This is a contentious topic in climate change meetings, but the general principle seems  to be that the rich countries that are mostly responsible for putting the greenhouse gasses into the air should pay for the damage that they will cause.  This is a topic our local government should raise with the Netherlands.

Renewable energy for our electricity needs

How can we Statians reduce our greenhouse gas emissions? Many ideas have been published for reducing emissions but not all of them apply to Statia. One that does is converting to renewable energy for our electricity needs as much as is possible, and we should do everything we can to encourage STUCO’s plans in that direction. Another idea that works for Statia is to use local food and other local products instead of imported products whenever we can, to reduce the fuel burned in shipping.

Our present cars need care, we need public transportation

An idea that doesn’t work well for us is switching to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. If we must buy a car, of course, a small and fuel-efficient one is better. But it takes about 100 barrels of oil equivalent to make a new car, which is enough gasoline to drive perhaps 100,000 miles. Few cars here will last long enough to drive that far, so fuel savings can never pay back the oil equivalent needed to make the new car. We do better by keeping our present cars in good repair for as long as possible. We can also plan our days so that we make as few car trips as   possible and walk when we can. If we had some public transportation so that we needed fewer cars, that would be even better.

George  Works