At the beginning of October, The Bahamas was battered by the first Category 4 storm to hit it since 1866, Hurricane Joaquin. The hurricane then went on to contribute to record shattering flooding and rain in South Carolina, USA.

As the people of The Bahamas face the hard, expensive work of rebuilding their homes, schools, roads and infrastructure, they’re not forgetting that climate change is a crucial part in the story of the rebuild. The Minister of Environment & Housing of The Bahamas, Kenred Dorsett, sent us this statement. We think it’s an important rallying call for action.

15th October, 2015

The Ministry of Environment & Housing, Nassau, The Bahamas

Climate Change and Hurricane Joaquin

Hurricane Joaquin was the first Category 4 storm to hit The Bahamas since 1866, and only the second latest in the season to do so. Over 10 inhabited islands of The Bahamas were severely affected by the storm as it relentlessly sat over islands in the Central and Southeast Bahamas for over 36 hours. 85% of the homes in one settlement on Crooked Island have been destroyed. Airports and ports were damaged and subsequently closed, electrical and communications infrastructure have been shut down and in some cases destroyed. Roads, clinics and other essential services have been destroyed, entire island economies…wiped out. While assessments are ongoing, it is estimated that the damage may exceed a cost of US$100 million dollars.

Long Island house

The remains of a house in Long Island, The Bahamas. Source: Long Island Hurricane Relief Facebook Page

For The Bahamas, climate change is an issue of access. More than access to adaptation funding, but access to food security, access to adequate public health, access to the fisheries and access to a Bahamian way of life that has existed for generations. Our country is fighting what appears to be a losing battle with the elements that have supported our existence for centuries. The sea is reclaiming the land; the ocean is killing off its contents through ocean acidification, the temperature is leading to disease (vector borne and heat related). We are finding it difficult to keep up.

The Bahamas is an archipelagic country. We have spoken time and time again, both internationally and domestically about our vulnerability and that in our case critical infrastructure must be replicated across many islands. Hurricane Joaquin has magnified this point; as roads, airports, docks, clinics and homes must be repaired and rebuilt for over half of the country. Dollars designated for national development, must now be diverted to rebuilding our nation. With storms like Joaquin becoming more frequent and even more intense, we cannot be expected to rebuild, annually. In the midst of Joaquin, The Bahamas is resolved to rebuild and will continue to do our part to combat climate change, even as one of the most vulnerable to its effects. However, the developed world must do its part to combat climate change. In Paris, we must have a legal framework to advance meaningful global action.

These photos show the severe scale of destruction. Our thoughts are with the peoples of The Bahamas.


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