With The Bahamas recognized as one of the most vulnerable countries on the planet to face dire consequences from rising seas that could swallow up to 80% of the land mass of the islands by the end of the century, a leading environmental consultant and attorney is calling for ‘immediate radical action’ to stem the tide of climate change.
“We no longer have the luxury of talking about the environment as if it is something to worry about in the future,” said Romi Ferreira, a regional expert and a director of environmental movement Save The Bays. “At the current rate of sea level rise, we stand to lose 80% of our country. And our leaders don’t get it. They are just paying lip service to it, talking about climate change while letting BEC continue to burn fossil fuels and allowing wetlands to be destroyed and disappear.”
An impassioned Ferreira, who worked in the energy sector for more than a decade prior to studying law, is taking his academic background, legal expertise and his wake-up call about the harsh realities of climate change to venues from talk radio to business forums. As moderator for the intensive one-day Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation Energy Sector Security Forum at the British Colonial Hilton last week, he urged incentivizing renewables, including solar power, to replace fossil fuels at levels greater than the 30% named in pending legislation. And he noted that many of the Family Islands can be self-generating with renewables including solar, totally eliminating the need and expense of being supplied by the BEC plant at Clifton which the Deputy Prime Minister Philip ‘Brave’ Davis acknowledged at the same forum had been polluting Clifton Bay for 40 years.
On a recent radio show, Ferreira said nothing posed as much danger to the future of The Bahamas as the threat of climate change, a gradual warming of the seas that causes ice caps to melt and the sea to rise, creating fewer but far more powerful hurricanes that can form in the middle of the ocean and barrel toward populated areas with little warning, harm marine and wildlife, cause surges and if unchecked, lead to flooding and the swallowing of islands.
“Climate change is the granddaddy of all risks,” Ferreira told listeners to Let’s Talk Live with host Carlton Smith on November 27.
“The UN cites our country as one that has the most to lose – that’s 80% of our land mass,” he said, noting that despite warning signs rushing at The Bahamas fast and furiously, little has changed. BEC continues to burn fossil fuels using, he said, more than 60% of its revenue for purchasing those fuels while it continues to distribute to small settlements in islands like Acklins and Andros that could easily be self-sustaining with renewables.
“The way we prepare for hurricanes has also not changed,” he told the radio audience. “The reasons we have not seen that type of change is there has not been a generational change in leadership.”
Lack of action, Ferreira said, will result in a Bahamas for our grandchildren that looks very little like the Bahamas we know today. But action takes new and courageous leadership, he believes, that looks at old problems with new eyes and is not afraid of change.
“There must now appear a group of Bahamians who are prepared to challenge the status quo. In the last 60 years, there has been little change in the governance of The Bahamas,” he said. “This is that pivotal moment in our evolution, true change must be a matter of the heart. The leadership must want to see the people prosper. Climate change is real. We must take radical action now before it is too late.”
As a director of Save The Bays, Ferreira is part of a legal team that continues to hold government accountable for actions impacting the environment and transparency. The organization with nearly 9,000 Facebook friends and followers has called for a strong Freedom of Information Act, an end to unregulated development, accountability for oil pollution and has said repeatedly that it welcomes development that is done in an environmentally conscious manner.