Barbados Plays the Climate Card

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Guest Essay by Kip Hansen – 1 August 2022

Barbados is a small island nation with a checkered history – once a British colony growing tobacco and sugar and now an independent republic that has de-throned Queen Elizabeth as Queen of Barbados with her acquiescence, replacing her with a President and Prime Minister under an as-yet unwritten Constitution.  

This small island nation, comprising only 167 square miles [ 432 km2 ] with a population of nearly 290,000, defaulted on its $ 8 billion international debt and under the direction of its latest Prime Minister, Mia Mottley and her adviser Avinash Persaud, began a years-long negotiation with international bankers to try to restructure the debt in a way more favorable to Barbados.  To do so, they played the Climate Card.

The story is covered in a magazine-length story co-written by ProPublica and the New York Times. ProPublica is a co-operating partner in the Covering Climate Now climate propaganda cabal.

Boiling the story down to the basics, Barbados’ Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, a member of the most-elite of Barbados’ elite, managed to get international bankers to realize that Caribbean nations were prone to being hit by Atlantic hurricanes, and should have a clause in their debt structure that allowed respite from their loan payments when forced to spend to recover from hurricane damage – Mottley quoted a lot of IPCC nonsense to get them to agree:  Nonsense like “Now, though, experts believe that global warming could drive a fivefold increase in strong hurricanes, suggesting that hits from Category 4 and 5 storms will become an annual near-certainty”.

A hurricane clause for international debt is a good thing, and it is unconscionable that these island nations haven’t always had one.  But let’s make one thing clear:  Barbados is famous for not being hit by hurricanes [link from the official bardadosweather.org ].  For Caribbean sailors, it is considered one of the hurricane safe islands, second only to Trinidad and the ABCs.

The last hurricane to ‘hit’ Barbados was on August 18, 2017 – Tropical Storm Harvey  (later to become Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas) brushed Barbados as a storm. “Winds left residents throughout Barbados without electricity, with the majority of outages occurring in Christ Church, Saint Joseph, Saint Lucy, and Saint Michael. Flooding washed one house off its foundation, while water entered some houses, forcing some people to evacuate..” [ Wiki ]

Historically:

July 2, 2021: Hurricane Elsa passes just south of the island.

July 23, 2020: Tropical Storm Gonzalo passes 12 miles to the southwest.

August 3, 2012 – Hurricane Ernesto passes 35 mi (56 km) northwest of Barbados

October 30, 2010 – Hurricane Tomas skirts the southern coast of Barbados as a tropical storm

October 4, 2001 Hurricane Iris passes 25 miles to the south.

September 1, 2007: Hurricane Felix passes 70 miles to the south.

August 17, 2007: Hurricane Dean passes 65 miles to the north.

September 7, 2004: Hurricane Ivan passes to the south as a Tropical Storm.

August 4, 2004: Tropical Storm Bonnie passes 20 miles to the north.

September 23, 2002: Hurricane Lili passes 45 miles to the south

October 7, 2001: Tropical Storm Jerry passes 30 miles to the south-west.

Beginning to see a pattern?  Hurricanes have skirted around Barbados at least since the turn of the century.  No hurricanes have hit Barbados since 1950, though Hurricane Janet in 1955 came close enough to cause some damage.  New York City gets hit by hurricanes more often than Barbados. 

Mottley is quoted as saying:  “I can’t do these things if I have to spend money on augmenting water supply because of the climate crisis,” she said.”  The ProPublica/NY Times piece cites the usual villains of climate propaganda, pointing out that Barbados  “is among the half of Caribbean islands the United Nations already describes as water-scarce, with seawater seeping into its aquifers and rainfall that might drop by as much as 40 percent by the end of the century.” 

Sea water is not seeping into Barbados’ aquifers.  Barbados, which is a mountainous island and not a sand-covered coral island,  reliably receives 55 inches of rain a year, most of it in the six-month rainy season June-December, some years more, few years less.     There is no climate crisis in Barbados and there should not be any water supply shortage, except for poor governance of municipal water systems:

Maybe Barbados is threatened by sea level rise?  Despite being an island nation, Barbados has no reliable tide gauge record.  In fact, there are no reliable even medium-term (10-30 year) tide gauge records for any of the islands of the Windward Islands chain.  Regional sea level rise data is also not dependably available.  If we judge by the data from Puerto Rico, the Caribbean has been seeing the widely accepted 8 inches per century of sea level rise.    Barbados is a mountainous island with bluffs at least ten meters (30 feet) or higher on most of its coast.  Even the relatively low-lying Bridgetown has an elevation of about 40 feet. 

And how did Barbados get so far in debt?  The NY Times gives this story:

”For at least a decade before Mottley was elected, a mixture of poor management and corruption had eroded the country’s economy. As Barbados’s former central bank governor DeLisle Worrell described it to me, the country had developed a “dysfunctional” fiscal culture in which government agencies and departments took loans and negotiated deals without consulting the central bank, accumulating sprawling debt and a backlog of need. On the touristed southern end of the island, sewage erupted from neglected pipes as funding to fix them lagged. The country’s response was to print more money and borrow more from abroad, to stanch the economic bleeding. In 2013, during Worrell’s term, Barbados took one of the largest commercial loans in its history — $150 million — from Credit Suisse at 7 percent interest; within a year, it had grown to $225 million, and by 2018, the interest on the balance was 12 percent. The money didn’t last, and the sewer lines weren’t fixed.

Bottom Lines:

1.  Barbados is a small Caribbean island with a large burgeoning population.  Barbados suffers all the disadvantages of small island economies (listed here) – such as “growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments….growth and development is also held back by high communication, energy and transportation costs, irregular international transport volumes, disproportionately expensive public administration and infrastructure.”

2.  Barbados, having gained full independence, has suffered at the hands of its own government – corruption both rampant and often the expected norm.  However, having inherited the benefits of over 300 years of British governmental rule, “Barbados is the 52nd richest country in the world in terms of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita, has a well-developed mixed economy, and a moderately high standard of living. According to the World Bank, Barbados is one of 83 high income economies in the world. Despite this, a 2012 self-study in conjunction with the Caribbean Development Bank revealed 20% of Barbadians live in poverty, and nearly 10% cannot meet their basic daily food needs.” [ Wiki ]

3.  Barbados is in the Windward Island chain – facing the west-bound Atlantic cyclonic storms every year.  For reasons not understood,  Barbados has been spared a major hurricane hit since 1831 –The Great Barbados Hurricane.

4.  It is possible that Barbados may suffer from climatic changes in the future – anything is possible.  But climate does not currently show any signs of threatening Barbados in any way.

5.  Adding a Hurricane Clause to international loan agreements is a good thing – even if Barbados doesn’t really need one, the other Caribbean nations have benefitted by Barbados’ example in demanding one.  Further, like all areas prone to hurricanes, building code standards  should be raised to require “hurricane proofing” of  basic structures and homes.  Governments should assist their poor to upgrade their homes to these standards.

6.  Apparently, in the international monetary and banking worlds, playing the Climate Card can be very successful – in spite of real-world evidence to the contrary concerning Barbados. 

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Author’s Comment:

I have done humanitarian assistance work on many small Caribbean islands and have visited others as far south and east as St Vincent (absolutely lovely, despite its volcano) and Trinidad.  Life is both easy and hard in Paradise.  Paradoxically, when hit hard by disasters, the poorest people bounce back pretty quickly, they have so little to lose and so little to regain.  In Barbados, considered a comparatively rich nation with a fairly high standard of living, 20% of the people live in poverty of a sort that those of us in North America and Europe have a hard time dealing with. 

It is true that if Barbados is hit by a hurricane like that of 1831, its infrastructure and economy will be devastated.  Barbados would not bounce back like New York City did after Superstorm Sandy. 

On the other hand, almost all of the Windward Islands have been slammed by hurricanes over the years and yet are thriving. The tourist drought caused by Covid was bad, but things are recovering nicely.    

Human development on Monserrat was almost totally destroyed over the last two decades by its volcanic activity.  St Vincent has an active volcano, erupting last year. Most islands (not Barbados) in the Windwards are volcanic in nature.

Like I said, life in Paradise is both easy and hard. I wish Barbados well but fear for it; the reins of its government are in the hands of experts.

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via Watts Up With That?

August 2, 2022

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