GIVEN the rapidity of occurrences of natural disasters, which bear the unmistakable stamp of the effects of climate change, Mother Nature has been unrelenting in her angry responses, making the new Millennium an age of death and destruction in almost every region of the world.
Tuesday’s devastating earthquake in Puerto Rico is now part of the sample to a frequency that has become a part of mankind’s now daily expectation of a phenomenon, for which the latter has played no uncertain role in its destructive culmination. A series of earthquakes, including one of 6.4 magnitude, early Tuesday rocked Puerto Rico. Periodic aftershocks continue to rattle the island of 3 million people, which has yet to fully recover from Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Those storms killed nearly 3,000 people.
Reuters has reported that more than 500 earthquakes occurred in the south of the island between December 28 and Tuesday, including 32 greater than magnitude 4, putting the U.S. territory’s biggest power plant out of service and damaging energy infrastructure. The 6.4 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday morning was the most powerful to hit Puerto Rico since 1918, when a 7.3 magnitude quake and tsunami killed 116 people, according to the Puerto Rican seismology institute, Red Sismica. Puerto Rico is accustomed to hurricanes, but powerful quakes are rare.
Here in Guyana, we have been visited by what has since been described as the great flood in February 2005 that inundated large swathes of the low-lying coastlands. Then there was Katrina in the U.S., also in 2005, described as the sixth deadliest storm with an $81B damage cost tag, where a storm of intense fury visited destruction with scenes of entire New Orleans cities flooded to roof-top levels, and unforgettable misery among tens of thousands of residents.
And if the latter display of nature’s anger were not enough, then later that year she struck in the form of a deadly earthquake in the disputed Kashmir province, registering a list of 79,000 deaths. Still in Asia, Myanmar had a bitter taste of Cyclone Nargis that tolled a reported 138,000 fatalities; while in China, a few days after, in Sichuan Province, a devastating earthquake claimed almost 80,000 lives.
Who will forget the massive quake that smashed the already impoverished Haiti, that accounted for in excess of 300,000 lives; Russia, recording the hottest summer in 2010, in over 100 years, and the Arctic, where the growing effects of global warming has resulted in the rapid melting of giant glaciers. Even Africa, south of the Sahel, has begun to experience unusual floods, as in the cases of Mozambique and Uganda, along with landslides in Sierra Leone, the latter occurring within recent times.
The already known reality of large volumes of rainfall in a very short period, as is now realised in Asia, and in the context of Guyana, as experienced in 2005; and in 2010 in the Pomeroon, where there were unprecedented floods, points to the unmitigated effects of a climate that is becoming warmer by the day. In fact, this unusual example of the Pomeroon was replicated in Regions One and Two, in 2017, prompting a high government official to refer to the effects of climate change.
It is interesting to note that these displays of natural phenomena are not isolated or geographically confined, but are instead occurring on every continent, concurrently, affecting developed, developing, and poor countries alike. For instance, it has always been customary to associate floods with countries that do not have proper infrastructure, especially those in the realm of hydraulic technology; therefore, how does one explain the constant flooding of American cities – where such engineering is impeccable — after unusually heavy rainfall? Or the “Hand-of-God” flood that struck Queensland, Australia, or the constant flooding of British cities, and the extreme cold weather and snow, now reported there?
Even the Caribbean is now visited by the devastation of extreme phenomena, as exemplified by the total destruction of Barbuda, and most parts of Dominica, the latter for the second time in two years; and the British Virgin Islands, battered by unusually fierce winds, and virtually unceasing rainfall; the recent battering of The Bahamas is another example.
It was instructive that the latter weather upheaval, although taking place during the annual hurricane season, also evidenced similar natural extremes in parts of the United States, as per Florida and Texas; Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India. There is a realisation which mankind needs to understand as to why their very existence is now threatened. Although the world has made great strides in its ground-breaking technological development, that began with the industrial revolution, and which concomitantly brought about great socio-economic transformation and untold benefits for improved living standards — it has done so at great costs to the environment, the results of which are now unfolding with almost catastrophic results.
Definitely, the existence of mankind and their future survival are now seriously challenged by the fact of climate change, whether or not those who are the doubters accept its gradual creeping reality. No country, however powerful, should ignore the looming perils and incessant warnings posed by what is now the greatest threat to the survival of our planet. For nature’s fury is non-discriminatory, and unmatched in its ferocity.
It explains why the early Iwokrama Project came about since the latter 1980s, as well as President David Granger’s Green State on Development Strategy that is geared primarily to the development of a Green Economy that will ensure the development of a sustained economy, while protecting the country’s environment. Now is the time for urgent action, on the part of all nations, great and small; for to delay will only be courting an even greater scenario – the point of no return. All nations need to act now, before it is too late.