Assessing the Impacts of Sea Level Rise in the Caribbean using Geographic Information Systems
Numerous studies project that climate change will accelerate the rise in global sea levels, leading to increased coastal inundation, greater potential damage from storm surge events, beach erosion and other coastal impacts which threaten vital infrastructure and facilities that currently support the economies of island nations. There is a broad consensus amongst experts that small island developing states (SIDS) face the greatest risk to the projected impacts of climate change. Unfortunately, few sea level rise (SLR) impact assessment studies have been conducted in SIDS due to the limitations of the geospatial data with regard to currency, accuracy, relevance and completeness. This research improves upon previous SLR impact assessment research by utilizing advanced global digital elevation models to create coastal inundation scenarios in one metre increments for 19 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations and member states, and then examine the implications for seven key impact indicators (land area, population, economic activity, urban areas, tourism resorts, transportation infrastructure and beach erosion). The results indicate that a one metre SLR would have serious consequences for CARICOM nations. For example under this scenario over 10% of the 73 identified study area airports and 30% of the 266 major tourism resorts were identified as prone to flooding. Projected effects were not found to be uniform across the region; low-lying island nations and mainland countries with coastal plains below ten metres were identified as the most vulnerable countries. Recommendations for adaptive actions and policies are provided.