HURRICANE Dorian’s devastating storm surge, destructive winds and blinding rain tell a tale, forcefully, of the power of nature; of the need for greater focus on our planet’s climate crisis. At a time when there is so much focus on borders, it takes something like a category five storm to show us just how flimsy walls can be when faced with a common adversary.
September 1, 2019, is likely to go down as one of the worst days in Bahamas history. Dorian’s sinister eye wall, the ring of devastating winds around its centre, hit Elbow Cay, Great Abaco and Grand Bahama Island. Winds of over 185 miles per hour were recorded, tearing infrastructure apart, placing airports under flood, razing thousands of homes, and taking human life.
It will be many days before the full extent of the damage can be completely ascertained. Even the most imaginative horror fans, including readers of The Picture of Dorian Grey, could not dream of Gothicism on this scale. It is the joint strongest Atlantic storm ever to hit land.
Dorian is certainly the strongest storm ever to hit the Bahamas. There, the process of recovery will be slow. Local authorities must consider what assistance, if any, could be made available if requested.
The warmer than normal waters Dorian encountered along its path may have contributed to its strength. The speed at which it intensified from weaker stages to stronger, the slow progress it made in its movements, all indicate a sea change in the way hurricanes are behaving. Slow-moving storms can dump more rain, higher winds can do more damage. Climate change is making weather more dangerous.
Yet again, we are reminded of the urgent need to tackle the climate crisis. Sadly, some global leaders remain cynical. Not only has Donald Trump spoken out against the Paris Agreement, but he has promoted the use of fossil fuels, eased environmental regulations and tried to unwind more stringent fuel standards for vehicles.
Last October, a United Nations (UN) report warned that time is running out to avert a climate catastrophe. A profound transformation of society and the global economy is required, it warned. Daily, such targets are slipping away.
The upcoming UN general assembly could prove a pivotal moment in the world’s history. All nations, especially the Caricom block of which the Bahamas is a member, must take the opportunity to strongly lobby for profound changes in the approach to these issues in light of our direct stake. We call for the strongest action at the national level to engage people on global warming.
Meanwhile, our local agencies must continue to prepare on the ground for any eventuality. Even if some leaders fail to take climate change seriously, natural disaster agencies have a moral responsibility to ready citizens come what may.