As the world anxiously awaits the outcome of the COP26 international conference on climate change which concludes in the Scottish city of Glasgow this week, for millions of persons living in the most-threatened areas, the outcome is a life-and-death matter.
The Caribbean is among the most threatened areas and chillingly, Guyana’s capital city, Georgetown, is among nine coastal cities in the world predicted to be swamped under water as soon as the year 2030. Yes, a watery grave could be the fate of this historic city on the Guyanese coast unless the world acts to arrest the destructive trends.
Scientific analyses based on observations have been fed into the Report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) which in many aspects makes grim reading. The twin threat of global warming, (the polar ice sheets continue to melt at an alarming rate) and pollution continues to result in rising sea levels.
For some, the threat is more immediate than others. In fact, based on the scientific reports there are some coastal areas which face the possibility of literally being drowned under water in the next 10 years, if urgent action is not taken.
Last week, a reporter for the British magazine TIME OUT, having examined the IPCC Report and looked at maps on the website Climate Central, summarised the potential consequences for nine coastal cities, Georgetown among them.
For centuries this picturesque Guyanese city has been reliant on a 280-mile long sea wall to protect its citizens from the sea. Most of Guyana’s coast is below sea level, between 0.5 and 1 metre (approximately 20-40 inches) below high tide. This sea wall, incidentally a popular recreational and tourist attraction, has virtually kept Georgetown on the map, but now through no fault of Guyana and its people, rising sea levels threaten to bring a watery end to its continued existence. It is worth noting that 90 per cent of Guyana’s people live on the coast.
Also predicted to share Georgetown’s fate are eight other cities. Two of these are in the USA, New Orleans on the Gulf Coast and Savannah, Georgia, and two others in Europe- the historic cities of Venice, Italy and Amsterdam, Netherlands, both famous for their maze of canals.
The remaining four are all in Asia – heavily populated Kolkata in India, Bangkok in Thailand, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in Vietnam and the Iraqi city of Basra.
These are nine on the climate change “death row”. Many others await their fate if the leaders of the world fail to do their duty. The conference wraps up on November 12.
By Renwick Rose