Shear Marlon Hibbert, V.I. liaison for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, emphasized on Thursday how important an issue climate change is to Virgin Islanders.
In his evening lecture at the Danish West India Guinea Co. Warehouse, Hibbert’s audience included about 40 residents, National Park Service workers, members of the St. Croix Environmental Association and the St. Croix East End Marine Park, and other environmental advocates.
Hibbert said anticipated sea level rise could put “Rumrunners, Shupes, and the whole Christiansted boardwalk under water.” He added that Virgin Islanders were especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
“We have no place to go,” he said, pointing out that people living in the states can just “drive inland a couple hundred miles.”
Hibbert also addressed the possible economic consequences climate change could have on Virgin Islanders. He said the ocean plays a key role in the economics of the Virgin Islands, noting the economics include the fishermen as well as those who depend on the tourist dollar. He said, “Most people come here for a bit of sun, sea and sand.”
Going hand in hand with climate change is ocean acidification. As more carbon is emitted in the atmosphere, more is absorbed by the ocean, he said. This acidification has already been shown to disrupt the food chain.
Hibbert pointed out that 2015 was the warmest year on record. Climate change deniers have pointed to the last year of a major El Niño as the warmest on record and argued that the earth was cooling in recent years. The latest global temperatures devastate that argument, Hibbert said.
“You don’t need a thermometer to see that things are changing.” Hibbert added that projections for 2016 indicate that it might be warmer than 2015. The five warmest years on earth, according to NOAA, have occurred since 2010.
Hibbert also discussed the Paris agreement to limit carbon emissions. He said not enough governments have ratified the agreement to make it effective but he hopes it will happen by the end of the year.
Zandi Starr of the National Park Service asked at the end of the presentation whether the tipping point had been reached.
Hibbert answered that there is “no way” emissions are going to be cut enough now to stop global temperatures from rising.
John Farchette of the St. Croix East End Marine Park said the presentation was “insightful and informational.” He said, “We have an untenable future if we, individually and as a human race, don’t heed the warnings.”
Preceding Hibbert’s presentation was a talk about monitoring turtles on St. Croix and Buck Island. The presenters called for volunteers to help with the program.
The evening was sponsored by the Friends of St. Croix National Parks. Its program in October will be about immigration to St. Croix from Puerto Rico and will include a film by Johanna Bermúdez-Ruiz.