Date of Award

Fall 12-22-2019


Environmental Studies


John van Buren


Hurricanes are a fact of life in the Caribbean. This meteorological reality has shaped the islands’ development throughout its history. However, in recent years, the Atlantic’s most fearsome storms have been unprecedented, both in strength and number. This paper explores the relationship between climate change and hurricanes and the effect this relationship has on the Eastern Caribbean. Chapter 1 uses quantitative data from a variety of sources, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of the United Nations, as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the National Climate Assessment of the United States. This data establishes the particularly destructive nature of recent hurricanes, the effect this destruction has had on the people and ecosystems of the Eastern Caribbean, and the potential for future hurricanes to be more powerful and wreak more destruction because of climate change. Chapter 2 explores the impact of hurricanes, European imperialism, and American influence on the historical development of the Caribbean. Chapter 3 examines the current political and economic situation to evaluate the region’s vulnerability to hurricanes and the destruction they cause. Chapter 4 considers the ethical dimensions of the region’s exposure to consequences of climate change and its ability to adapt, given its historical political and economic history and small contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, drawing on the scientific, historical, political, economic, and ethical considerations of the issue, Chapter 5 presents policy solutions for adaptation to the new environmental realities of extreme tropical weather based on a global effort toward development in the region.