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Bahamas - Environment

The climate of the archipelago is semitropical and has two seasons, summer and winter. During the summer, which extends from May through November, the climate is dominated by warm, moist tropical air masses moving north through the Caribbean. Midsummer temperatures range from 21C to 34C with a relative humidity of 60 to 100 percent. In winter months, extending from December through April, the climate is affected by the movement of cold polar masses from North America. Temperatures during the winter months range from 15C to 24C.

Yearly rainfall averages 132 centimeters and is usually concentrated in the May-June and September-October periods. Rainfall often occurs in short-lived, fairly intense showers accompanied by strong gusty winds, which are then followed by clear skies.

Winds are predominantly easterly throughout the year but tend to become northeasterly from October to April and southeasterly from May to September. These winds seldom exceed twenty-four kilometers per hour except during hurricane season. Although the hurricane season officially lasts from June to November, most hurricanes in the Bahamas occur between July and October. Damage from Hurricane David in September 1979. was estimated at US$1.8 million and mainly affected agricultural products. The most intense twentieth-century hurricane to strike the Bahamas was in 1929; winds of up to 225 kilometers per hour were recorded. Many lives were lost, and there was extensive damage to buildings, homes, and boats.

Historical accounts indicate that Bahamian islands were once heavily vegetated with mixed tropical broadleaf coppice including mahogany. Today, the northern islands are largely covered by pine barrens with palmetto, but there are regions of limited broadleaf coppice.

Climate change from a national security perspective has the potential to affect the lives of all Bahamians through increased food insecurity, freshwater water shortages, increased health problems through the spread of disease, by creating conflict from loss of property due to ground subsidence, flooding, coastal erosion, and extreme weather events; and, other security interests such as refugee problems resulting from environmentally enforced migration; human displacement that would result in poaching, which could hasten the depletion of fisheries resources; and, an increase in the importation of fuels.

Caribbean leaders on 09 May 2015 further advanced their policy position on climate change ahead of the 21st Conference of Parties, also known as COP 21, scheduled for Paris during November and December 2016. The position of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), 14 independent countries, was put forward by the groups chairman, Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie, during a meeting here with French President Franois Hollande. For the Bahamas, which has 80 percent of its land mass within one metre of mean sea level, climate change is an existential threat to our land mass. Indeed, that is the story across the region. And as I have said from place to place, if the sea level rises some five feet in the Bahamas, 80 percent of the Bahamas as we know it will disappear. The stark reality of that means, we are here to talk about survival, Christie added.

The islands of the Bahamas are already experiencing some of the effects of climate variability and change through damage from severe weather systems and other extreme events, as well as more subtle changes in temperature and rainfall patterns. The primary challenges as a result of climate change are the physical and economic damage from extreme events such as tropical storms and hurricanes, which are expected to increase in severity and frequency as a result of climate change; and drought conditions which have been occurring more frequently throughout the region.

The vulnerability of The Bahamas as well as other CARICOM Member States mirrors that of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS). The Bahamas are vulnerable economically, because of isolation from markets and limited internal markets, limited commodities and dependence on imports,- vulnerability to external economic and financial shocks; society, because of declining public. health and poor infrastructure (roads, public utilities); and environmentally, because of small size, geographical dispersion, nature disasters (cyclones, flooding, drought non-tropical processes), fragility of ecosystems (coral reefs, coasts, wetlands; forests , soils) and limited natural resources and depletion of non-renewable resources.

The Bahamas is already experiencing many of the adverse impact of climate change and based on the available scientific consensus can expect more frequent and intense impacts over time. As The Bahamas produce very little of itsown food and are wholly dependant on the importation of foesil fuels for energy supplies. Coral bleaching events are likely to also further stress and weaken the coral reef systems that play a vital role in dissipating the wave energy of tropical processes that annually threaten the coastlines.

In order to respond to rising sea levels, the salinization of fresh ground water resources and the loss of potable water across The Bahamas a rapid transition to the use of reverse osmosis facilities to provide for this essential service has resulted in an increased dependence on processed water to meet the needs of a tourism and services dependent economy. The net effect is that in responding to climate change and increased use of fossil fuels has resulted as well as a dependence on imported technologies.

Amal-lee Amin, Division Chief, Climate Change and Sustainability Division, IDB, said April 8, 2016 "According to NASA, global sea levels could rise by 1 meter before the end of the century. In this country, The Bahamas, 80 percent of landmass is below 1 metre, which makes it highly vulnerable. No beaches, no tourism, no conferences. We need to be prepared, because it wont be cheap. By 2050, the impacts of climate change could cost as much as $100 billion a year for Latin America and the Caribbean. Thats as much as 2.4% of current GDP. For The Bahamas that could be as much as $200 million dollars a year."

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