Caribbean among key regions most vulnerable to climate change

Single blue star fish on a heavily damaged tropical coral reef

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Monday September 22, 2014, CMC – Environmental experts say developing societies in the Caribbean are the most vulnerable economies in the Americas to climate change because the majority of the population reside in coastal areas.

According to the Spanish international news agency (EFE), rising sea levels, coastal erosion and the spread of tropical diseases are among the signs of climate change.

“Atlantic Ocean temperatures have been increasing in recent years, and the water’s pH imbalance has been harming marine species,” said Ernesto Diaz, director of the Coastal Zone Management Program at the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources, during a news conference organized by El Puente Latino Climate Action Network.

“We are losing our beaches and that not only affects tourism but also our people,” added Diaz, predicting more intense hurricanes.

He urged Caribbean governments to maximize the protection of ecosystems and inhabitants.

Diaz said it is understandable that the Caribbean calls for more international cooperation on the issue and that he expects the region’s representatives to call for action once again at this week’s UN Climate Summit in New York.

“We are the first ones to experience climate change,” he said, noting that populations of coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to rising sea level and hurricanes.

Cecilio Ortiz, associate professor in Public Administration from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, said governments must learn about the issue in order to prevent or lessen the impact of climate change on their territories, according to EFE.

Meanwhile, in the lead-up to UN’s Climate Summit, the United Nations on Saturday lit up its iconic Headquarters complex in New York with a spectacular 30-story architectural projection show aimed to inspire global citizens to take climate action.

The Climate Summit aims to catalyze ambitious action on the ground to reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience and mobilize political action toward a “meaningful, robust, universal, and legal climate agreement by 2015.”

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