While climate change has affected various nations worldwide, it has had significant impacts on small island developing states such as Trinidad and Tobago. This growing phenomenon has not only affected the islands socially, but it has also been a silent killer of its economy. Like many other small islands developing states, Trinidad and Tobago has fallen victim to the rise in sea levels, increased flooding, the increased unpredictability of weather conditions, hillside erosion and the loss of coastal habitats; all of which are symptoms of the continued progression of climate change. This has occurred not as a result of a lack of preparedness but as a result of the islands’ current economic vulnerabilities. It is as such that climate change continues to have such a big impact on the already recuperating economy of the Trinidad and Tobago.
In a document entitled “Working towards Sustainable Development”, prepared by the Ministry of Planning and the Economy, researchers found and highlighted several areas of Trinidad and Tobago’s economy that are likely to be most impacted by climate change. These areas include agriculture, health, and coastal zones. Though not a major contributor to the country’s GDP, the agricultural sector has in recent years been the focus of the country’s plan to diversify the economy. Their research found that the projected increase in air temperature from climate change is likely to increase the aridity of soils, thus decreasing crop yields. They also found that the increase in sea level is likely to result in inundation of coastal areas and salination of soil, and finally, that increased temperatures can result in the increased proliferation of new and existing pests and diseases and increase the demand for water for irrigation purposes. These threats to agriculture are of major concern to the country as the nation is currently trying to improve its economic climate.
Another important area of the economy that is most likely to be affected is health. The anticipated increases in ambient air temperature are likely to increase the spread of vector diseases, as higher temperature and humidity favor the spread of vector-borne insects. Additionally, they found that the estimated increases in sea level and precipitation intensity are likely to result in increases in the incidence of waterborne diseases. Apart from the obvious economic disadvantages, the spread of these diseases can devastate and dismantle the country’s workforce.
Apart from oil, Trinidad and Tobago is known for its thriving tourism sector; a sector that relies on the nation’s warm weather, beautiful beaches and sandy coastline. In a study done by the Inter-American Development Bank on Climate adaptation in Trinidad and Tobago, researchers predicted that with the progression of climate change the nation would face increased occurrences of tropical storms, coastal flooding, a rise in sea levels and increased risk of droughts. This deterioration of the country’s coast and major tourist attractions can be detrimental to the nation’s tourism industry and its overall contribution to the economy.
It is important to note, however, that the IDB in conjunction with both the public and private industries of Trinidad and Tobago are already putting measures in place to mitigate these threats. Such measures include the establishment of the Agriculture & Climate Change Research Unit, the Social Awareness Program and the Institutional Training Program to name a few, as well as, many other initiatives geared towards protecting the nation.