The (Dutch) Caribbean islands are facing unprecedented challenges posed by climate change, including rising sea levels, intensifying hurricanes, heatwaves, and heavy rainfall. In response to these threats, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) has published climate scenarios for the BES islands. In addition, a collaborative effort is underway to develop a Climate Impact Atlas for the BES islands, providing a crucial foundation for informed decision-making and sustainable development. In the week of October 16th, workshops and public lectures are held on Curaçao and on Bonaire to share developments in climate information and management perspectives, and to discuss priorities for further development.
The KNMI’23 climate scenarios show what the BES islands will face in terms of climate change in the coming decades. Climate models have been used to calculate the impact of human greenhouse gas emissions on the future climate. The KNMI’23 climate scenarios consist of four pathways that describe possible future climates in the Caribbean between 2050 and 2100. The new climate scenarios tell us what changes we can expect as we adapt to a warmer climate with more extremes and higher sea levels. They also show what impacts can still be avoided by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A Climate Impact Atlas translates scientific knowledge into accessible insights, offering essential information on climate change. Despite numerous organizations addressing climate-related topics in the BES islands, there is still a lack of comprehensive data on climate impacts. The Climate Impact Atlas aims to bridge this gap by consolidating existing knowledge into a centralized resource, empowering governments, individuals, and communities to understand the specific effects and vulnerabilities of their region.
The KNMI’23 climate scenarios were presented to Minister Harbers on October 9th. Even in the most optimistic scenario, the climate will continue to change in the future, with major consequences for the Caribbean. The scenarios show that the Caribbean will become warmer and drier. The warming will be most pronounced in the rainy season, while the drying will be most pronounced in the dry season . This will be experienced as warmer periods during the rainy season and drier weather during the dry season.. Of particular concern for Bonaire is sea level rise, which could be limited under the low emissions scenario, but could reach over one meter by 2100 under the high emissions scenario. The upper limit could be over 3 meters if uncertain processes, such as the Antarctic ice sheet becoming less stable, occur before 2100. On St Eustatius and Saba, the likelihood of severe hurricanes with heavy rainfall increases in the future. A Future Weather experiment shows that Hurricane Irma would have had even higher wind speeds and rainfall rates in a warmer climate.
The first version of the Climate Impact Atlas for the BES Islands is set to be developed in 2023, representing the initial phase of an ongoing initiative. The project was started in April 2023 and a demonstration of the concept for Bonaire will be included in the upcoming workshop in October. As the year concludes, the online Climate Impact Atlas, along with a roadmap for future developments, will be unveiled.
The inaugural Climate Impact Atlas for the BES Islands will comprise three key components:
Climate Statistics: Providing information on present and future climate parameters, including temperature, rainfall, wind, and sea level for Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba.
Climate Data Viewer: Offering a user-friendly online platform to visualize climate data. Initially for Bonaire, but viewers for Saba and Sint Eustatius will be developed in the near future.
Climate Stories: Background information to accompany the main map layers in the viewer, aiding in the interpretation of maps. The initial focus will be on Bonaire in 2023, followed by Sint Eustatius and Saba.
Financed by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, with the CAS Foundation as the coordinator, the Climate Impact Atlas has garnered support from various organizations. Other contributing organizations include the Openbaar Lichaam Bonaire (OLB), TERRAMAR museum, EcoVision, Wageningen Environmental Research (WENR), Instituut voor Milieuvraagstukken (VU-IVM), Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut (KNMI), Technische Universiteit Delft (TU Delft), Rijkswaterstaat (RWS), Informatiehuis Marien, Deltares, RVO.nl, en het Koninklijk Instituut van Taal-Land- en Volkenkunde (KITLV) and Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA).
This project is closely related to other regional projects such as the development of a Climate Impact Atlas for Curacao: “KlimaKòrsou“, Restoration of resilience Dutch Caribbean, SEALINK and Paratus.
Want to get involved?
In the research program Islanders at the Helm, researchers and civil society partners work together to offer/propose tailor-made solutions based on thorough interdisciplinary research. The aim is to develop new, sustainable and inclusive strategies in the face of current climate challenges. A Transatlantic Platform (TAP) has been developed to offer courses, lectures and workshops to promote knowledge and awareness of climate challenges. The Universities in the region, such as the University of the West Indies St. Augustine Campus (Trinidad & Tobago – British Caribbean), University of the US Virgin Islands (UVI- US Caribbean), the Inter-Continental University of the Caribbean (Curaçao – Dutch Caribbean), Instituto Pedagogico Arubano (Aruba – Dutch Caribbean), The National Archaeological Museum Aruba (Aruba – Dutch Caribbean) and the University of St. Martin (Sint Maarten and Saint Martin – Dutch and French Caribbean), are integral partners in the TAP having hosted prior lecture series. There is a recognition that Kingdom-wide collaboration goes hand in hand with integration in the wider Caribbean basin. As part of the latest installation of the TAP, there will be public lectures and workshops on Bonaire and Curaçao:
Public lecture for Curaçao on October 17th will be organized in collaboration with NAAM (National Archaeological Anthropological Memory Management) and the Curaçao Climate Change Platform:
Public lecture for Bonaire on October 19th will be organized in collaboration with Terramar Museum: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/islanders-at-the-helm_public-lecture-19-october-2023-location-activity-7115267851241828352–8Zi?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_desktop
Stay up to date by visiting https://bes.climateimpactatlas.com/ and https://klimakorsou.com/
The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) supports (science) communication and outreach in the Dutch Caribbean region by making nature-related scientific information more widely available through amongst others the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database, DCNA’s news platform BioNews and the press. This article contains the results from several (scientific) studies but the studies themselves are not DCNA studies. This article contains the results from several (scientific) studies but the studies themselves are not DCNA studies. No rights can be derived from the content. DCNA is not liable for the content and the in(direct) impacts resulting from publishing this article.