Newsweek has published a special edition focusing on 100 very special places around the world that would disappear if climatologists are correct in their predictions about the impact of global climate change. Access to the complete list can be found at http://www.newsweek.com/id/236064?GT1=43002. The list includes a number of places in the Caribbean basin. Here are some of them:
Caribbean Sea: Four types of endangered sea turtles feed and mate among the corals of the Caribbean. Rising sea levels and temperatures, acidification of the oceans, and extreme storms could erode the beaches where the females nest and could threaten the coral reefs upon which the turtles depend. Since temperature affects the gender of turtle hatchlings, scientists fear a decline in male turtles, which could threaten the survival of the species.
Trinidad, Cuba: Renowned for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture, the town of Trinidad has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But Trinidad, together with the rest of Cuba, lies in the path of hurricanes. An effort is now underway to reinforce buildings against more severe storms that threaten both the town’s colonial heritage and the lives of its citizens.
Honduras: The most mountainous country in Central America, Honduras contains some of the world’s richest land for growing coffee and bananas, vital exports for this poor nation. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch killed nearly 6,000 people, obliterated much of the country’s infrastructure, and destroyed crops. Three other hurricanes have since surpassed Mitch in severity.
Caracas, Venezuela: More than 4 million people live in Caracas—2 million of them in barrios on the slopes that surround the city. Landslides caused by heavy rain are a chronic problem. In 1999, in one of the Americas’ worst natural disasters, 30,000 people were killed in flash floods triggered by several days of rainstorms. Such extreme weather is projected to hit Caracas more frequently and with increasing force.
Panama Canal: When the Panama Canal opened in 1914, it revolutionized shipping by providing an alternative to the southern route around Cape Horn. About 4 percent of world trade now passes through the canal. Raising and lowering ships between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which differ by 85 feet in elevation, requires vast amounts of increasingly scarce fresh water. Shortages have forced several closures in recent years.