How the Bahamas continues to rebuild three years after Hurricane Dorian
The island nation is also working with other Caribbean countries to develop solutions to climate change.
For many people, the Bahamas is a tropical escape. For Bahamians, the island nation is simply home – or at least, it once was.
Their home was left in shambles three years ago after Hurricane Dorian barreled through. Dorian had grown into a category 5 storm by the time it reached the northern Bahaman island of Elbow Cay on Sept. 1, 2019, and it remains the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall on the islands.
The storm left 29,500 people homeless and/or jobless, with 245 people missing and more than 200 lives lost, according to a summary report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
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Those left behind continue to pick up the pieces.
Leading the charge is Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis, who spoke with FOX Weather hurricane specialist Bryan Norcross about his country’s efforts to rebuild and withstand violent weather.
"(The Bahamas) is one of the most beautiful spots in the world," said Davis. "It is sad that we have the kind of ferociousness of these storms that we're having today."
Progress in the face of these storms has been a challenge. According to Davis, many Bahamians remain displaced three years after Dorian struck. While federal housing programs and social assistance have been put in place, Davis believes more is left to be done.
"Sadly, we're not as far ahead as we wish," he said. "I'm not happy with the progress on Abaco and the number of contributing factors to that, but my government has been very committed to ensuring that we bring relief as quickly as possible."
Abaco, an island to the west of Elbow Cay, was the hardest hit during Hurricane Dorian. More than 75% of Abaco's homes were damaged, accounting for 87% of damages in the Bahamas.
Many residents fled after the hurricane struck, and Davis is unsure about how many will decide to return. However, he believes that as long as the economy bounces back – albeit "slowly" – many will come back home.
In the meantime, tourists are returning to Abaco and throughout the Bahamas, contributing to the country’s rebounding economy.
Addressing climate change
Apart from rebuilding the Bahamas, Davis is also focused on his country’s role on both the regional and world stage, particularly in terms of climate change.
He hosted a conference on Aug. 16 with several other Caribbean countries with the goal of seeing how to "get the Caribbean speaking in one voice".
"Yes, we do have some differences and peculiar circumstances within each of our jurisdictions, but there are some common denominators," Davis said. "For one, most of the Caribbean nations are all vulnerable to the impact of climate change."
"The warming seas, for example, impact our marine life, impacts our corals and all of that has a consequence for our livelihood," he said. "And so those issues that we hope to have addressed and addressed properly. There has to be compensation in some way or the other for those things, for the loss of those things."
In addition to financial initiatives, conservation efforts were also a focal point. Davis spoke about the Bahamas leading efforts to develop technology that helps revitalize and restore corals.
According to Davis, one of the approaches discussed was implementing a global tax of 2% for all oil exporters to help fund the Caribbean nations, since the Bahamas does not qualify for concessionary loans due to the country’s per capita income.
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He also noted the role of seagrass, plant life on the ocean floor, in the Bahamas in achieving climate milestones.
"It absorbs 12 times as much carbon as the forests," Davis said. "And so, we think that once we're able to verify all of our carbon sinks and we monetize it, we will be able to contribute to the net-zero goal that's been set."
Davis, along with fellow leaders of Caribbean nations, plans to present solutions such as these at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in November 2022.