Climate change presents major health risks

| 11/10/2021 | 69 Comments
DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie gives her presentation at the Healthcare Conference

(CNS): Climate change poses a much greater threat to our health than the COVID-19 pandemic, the director of the Department of Environment has warned. Delivering an address at the 2021 Cayman Islands Healthcare Conference last week, Gina Ebanks-Petrie pointed to a catalogue of diseases and ill-health that awaits us all if the world fails to address the environment crisis.

From respiratory illness due to pollution to shellfish poisoning, the list of health consequences is long and the DoE director said health and the environment cannot be treated as separate problems.

As a low lying island Grand Cayman is particularly vulnerable to the continued warming of the planet, with the threat to our coral reefs and rising sea levels. And while Ebanks-Petrie pointed out that Cayman’s direct contribution to greenhouse gases is relatively small, our emissions are still rising every year, largely from transport and energy supply.

Worryingly, this country’s annual emissions are some of the highest in the region at 15.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita, as compared to Jamaica where it is only 2.7.

“We therefore need to address this, not only from a sustainability perspective but also from a moral perspective,” she said. “It will be very difficult to get up and make a case that the rest of the world has to cut their emissions to reduce our climate change impacts when we are unwilling to take a look at our own practices.”

Across the Caribbean we can expect more of what we are already seeing, which is variability in rainfall, more extreme weather events, sargussum influxes and rising sea levels, all of which is going to impact our environment, from water supply issues to coastal erosion. We can expect more salination of groundwater, and although Cayman gets much of its potable water through desalination, the amount of energy this uses is not sustainable.

Ebanks-Petrie stressed the importance of reducing our impact on the environment and building climate resiliency. “The creation of the new Ministry of Sustainability and Climate Resiliency is the strongest signal yet from the Cayman Islands Government that it intends to prioritise pursing a sustainable development path for our country,” she said.

The DoE director outlined the huge amount of work that Cayman must do, given its current situation, the lack of policies in place, issues with the development plans and how far we are from the targets set in the National Energy Policy.

She also spoke at length about the health related issues that we can expect from climate change, saying that it is time for all governments to stop addressing health and environment as separate entities. The need to combat climate change, slow down the loss of diversity, and in particular habitat loss, is directly related to human health and food insecurity.

In our region we can expect the increase in sea temperatures that can contribute to toxic algal bloom, increasing shell and reef fish poisonings. Higher temperatures speed up the mosquito life-cycle and the diseases they harbour. Hot temperatures can impact fertility, respiratory problems and allergies and heat-stress related illnesses.

All of this is in addition to more storms, hurricanes and floods that will impact food production, as well as insurance and energy costs, the border economy, people’s livelihoods and in turn mental health.

Ebanks-Petrie pointed to the massive disruption to everyone lives from COVID-19, but said the science suggests that the impact of climate change will be significantly worse in the coming years and it will make pandemics more likely. Governments met the challenge of this pandemic with unprecedented spending, but the environmental crisis demands a similar emergency response, she said.

But she pointed out that not enough is being invested to stop this threat and it is unlikely that governments will be able to keep global warming from exceeding 2%, as she warned about the impending catastrophe in the absence of serious action to limit this. If the world takes very ambitious action this decade, we can still limit the warming to1.5%, she said and listed many of the things being done.

Ebanks-Petrie pointed to the importance of planting trees and retaining those that we have and in particular saving wetlands, such as mangroves, which are the best natural sequesters of carbon.

See the DoE director’s presentation below on CIGTV:

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Category: Climate Change, Science & Nature

Comments (69)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The only answer Is to live self sufficiently. Climate will keep changing though cause thats what climate has always done.

  2. Breathe easier yet? says:

    It’s not only mangroves, which would actually be a start. One of the best at it this process is our close bonatical friend which has recieved the most stigma under our ignorant self centered leadership with over decades of no vision or any sign of an open mind.

    Industrial hemp has been scientifically proven to absorb more CO2 per hectare than any forest or commercial crop and is therefore the ideal carbon sink. … Industrial hemp is the name of the soft fiber from the Cannabis Sativa plant

    So hemp can help save the world again from a different angle but you know… WEED will be WEED to idiots.

  3. Anonymous says:

    easy free solution…stop eating meat.
    you will live longer and healthier too.

    • Anonymous says:

      People do not like to be told what to do, even if you are right. The world needs intervention and if I have one wish.
      I wish God would grant understanding, to those of his liking, which is the key to solving the world’s issues.
      We have to understand humans are like ants colonies with their own rules, and regulations which is of no importance to us, humans, just as our rules and regulations are of no importance to God.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s about moderation and sustainable meat.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Yes!! Cayman will lead the way!! And all of the greedy first world economies will changes their ways and, follow us for a greener future….oh wait, I just woke up to reality.

    All we are doing is burdening the people living here with this foolishness. Without action FROM THE REAL CULPRITS, Cayman wasting time.

  5. Anonymous says:

    In 2021, any self-ascribing environmental “expert” talking about GHG and/or climate change, that isn’t also talking about mitigation with plant based diets, and eating that way themselves, doesn’t understand the subject material, and/or hasn’t read the IPCC reports of the last 6-7 years. It really is that simple. 87% of GHG are attributable to animal agriculture, more than all the fossil fuel inputs combined.

  6. Anonymous says:

    CIG will handle this with their usual incompetence. Blame some else then ignore it. The islands are ripe for recession so just one more thing and it all comes falling down. Finally. Can’t fix it until the ones breaking it are broke.

    • Anonymous says:

      2023 and there’s a 15% tax rate .

      Bye bye Cayman economy and jobs.

      Expats will leave and bobo will be in charge

  7. Anonymous says:

    Cayman does not have any form of public transport system, maybe that would be a start,

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t worry, Kenny is on it…

      • Anonymous says:

        He’s making a black and white video with dramatic lighting and music about it right now. The public transport problem is as good as solved!

    • Anonymous says:

      don’t insult the great bus drivers of our country.. they are always on time and on schedule with their absolutely top notch safe driving.. /s

    • Anonymous says:


      Also, on the Brac, first the roads were repaved. Now, the roadside is being torn up again for Water Authority piping. Would have been a great time to buy or acquire the land for a proper bike path.

      No vision.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is the sort of thing you do, when have absolutely nothing else to show in terms of accomplishment, and need to justify your position. Just drop start talking about global mumbojumbo, Pantoon style.

    All of this will have 0.00000000000000000000000%, not even a measurable impact in the Cayman Islands or any where else in the world. But it will cost a lot to keep up this pretend we’re doing something crap, you can bet on that part.

    Cayman can’t even solve murders and crimes caught on cameras at local bars, and Cayman is going to impact the global climate that has been around for 4.5 billion years? Do we intend to offset China? India, Africa? Brazil? Or is this just a bunch of posing? Why don’t you start being sending some of your people here and clean up that sh*thole of you want to *begin* to make a real difference!

    The economy is in the tank, they haven’t even figured out how to open, but NOW they’re going to fix the climate problems? PACT seriously know how to waste time and resources.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’ll buy into the DoE’s climate change plans, when it bans private jets from Cayman.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Still peddling the Al Gore global carbon taxes I see.

  11. Anonymous says:

    China, India and Russia are the big polluters. Leave my beef steak and old car alone. Keep your estrogenic soy based mumbo jumbo away from me.

  12. Get Real says:

    How is the hole in the OZONE LAYER?

    CNS: Discover Magazine – Whatever Happened to the Hole in the Ozone Layer?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Gina drive around Cayman. You see anybody worried bout climate change?? Every piece of land got apts being built. Go up by Hurleys you want to see climate change.

    • Anonymous says:

      Building up, it out, is good for the environment, we should go 20 stores energy efficient affordable housing,

      • Anonymous says:

        And we can call those public housing ghettos, or as they euphemistically say in America, “The projects”.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Can’t see anything changing with regard to our carbon footprint unless all development is capped until a sustainable way forward is found.

    • Anonymous says:

      Let’s see how much this government believes this. If so, they need to stop development by big investors who built their monstrosities here and then leave us with the consequences of overpopulation.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Sustainable way forward is found”
      What an unoriginal asinine statement , unimaginative, unhelpful and just plain unnecessary.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Until the population of the world is reduced to a level sustainable for the planet, degradation of the environment and the consequences thereof is inevitable. The thing is though we need lots of poor people in India and China to do things cheaply so that us relatively rich fellows can make more cash ourselves here in Cayman. And then we contribute even more to global warming by spouting lots of virtuous hot air at climate change conferences …

    • Anonymous says:

      What if a plant-based human diet could feed 25bln and deliver us under 1.5’F on time, with no change to cars, planes, and electrical generation? What if that simple diet change would also reduce and reverse atherosclerotic plaque buildup, prevent and reverse type 2 diabetes and CVD? What if it also restored endothelial function, blood flow to things that need blood, aid physical recovery, and retain brain memory in the old, adding 5-10 quality family years to lifespan? Might that be a diet worth looking into, so our kids could think about having their own replacement kids?

      • Anonymous says:

        Good for rabbits

      • Anonymous says:

        Back off.
        Meat heals. Vegetarians are malnourished. Vegans are said to emit 60% more methane gas than meat eaters. Ploughing and harvesting kill millions of small mammals, snakes, lizards and other animals. pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides kill them as well. Traces of the “…sides” remain even on organic produce. Heavy machinery used for ploughing and harvesting leaves huge carbon footprint. More than 50% of people who had a heart attack have normal lipids.

        Having said that, global warming and Earth pollution are real. Only meat eaters have nothing to do with it.

        • Anonymous says:

          Thank you! I am so sick of these holier than thou vegans and vegetarians who think they are a superior life form. I love vegetables myself and I don’t have a problem with people not eating meat if they don’t want to, but the smug attitude of some of them is intolerable!

      • Anonymous says:


  16. Anonymous says:

    During lockdown emissions from cars were probably at the lowest. Ok so some people have to go back to a physical place of work. Government want to encourage more work from home as part of a green effort. It would be the ‘new norm’ they said, but we are back to massive congested and unsafe roads to ride e-bikes. Simple changes can make a big difference but if government is not going to get on-board it is a non-starter.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is no public transport system in cayman so what do you expect people to do instead if cars? And don’t claim the buses are a public transport system… they are a danger and a joke,

    • Anonymous says:

      The NRA has redone a lot of the roads over the past 18 months, but barely included any bike lanes. What gives?

  17. Anonymous says:

    Exactly how did we come up with this number of 15.1 tons of CO2 per annum? And on the point about the comparison to Jamaica’s emissions, it has nothing to do with the geography of these two countries but more to do with economics. Cayman operates an economy that far outpace’s that of Jamaica. Jamaica has a larger population, but yet the overwhelming majority don’t own vehicles. “Per Capita” for the purposes of this comparison is very misleading.

    The fact of the matter is, while Cayman has a MORAL obligation to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases, it is foolhardiness to believe that our contribution will be the deciding factor is staying below the 2 degrees Celsius threshold.

    I agree, better emission laws are needed, as well as monitoring. Because the fact of the matter is, and contrary to what Ms. Petrie-Ebanks implies, there is no accurate monitoring now (hence my questioning of those numbers).

    We see the mass influx of vehicles on our roads (majority cheap secondhand from Asia) being driven by those who couldn’t afford a vehicle otherwise in their home country. This is a part of the problem with our higher than our neighbors emissions. Also, anyone else who for one resin or the other can’t afford to buy a fuel efficient vehicle. Coupled with the fact that almost every dump truck and heavy equipment in this island is old….

    What we need to focus on is replanting more mangroves around the coastline, where they once were. That will go a long way in resilience. Because at the end of the day, America, China, India, Brazil and many others only talk about responsible climate action going forward, but their actions show otherwise.

    • Anonymous says:

      Never did statistics did you?

    • Anonymous says:

      The educated world could all make a substantial difference to our planet, and to personal health, simply by understanding the impact of animal agriculture and changing to a plant-based diet.

      Here’s the UNFCCC calculator for anyone wishing to own their carbon footprint:

      • Beaumont Zodecloun says:

        Agree with you that most of us can do better in making a positive difference.

        Much of that not really applicable to our situation here (no trains, subways, reliable busses, etc.). There are no credits within it for bike riding or walking. There is no happy zone between pescetarian and light meat usage. There were no credits for self-production of produce, cheese, wine or beer. Still, it was enlightening. I was surprised my 6.75 wasn’t smaller.

        Thank you!

      • Anonymous says:

        Good luck shutting down MacDonalds pal

      • Anonymous says:

        You don’t need to educate the world, just 7 billion plus that are not vegetarians. Would dearly love to see you go to Texas and preach that eating a steak isn’t good for the planet! Right, I’m off to have bacon and eggs for breakfast.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I think there is a confusion between conservation and replanting and climate change. Certainly we can all benefit by transitioning into renewable energies and electric cars and getting away from diesel generators. We should be planting more trees, and conserving larger areas that are protected from development.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ha ha, electric cars … that rely on mining to obtain the ores, which then require processing at large smelting plants to produce the components required for the batteries. And where does the electricity come from to charge the battery… oh yes, a coal or oil burning power plant!

      • Anonymous says:

        Or solar power, you know that big bright ball in the sky? Read up beyond Joe Regan dude

        • Anonymous says:

          If you relied on solar power, it would take you a week to charge your car …. to go 150km before the next charge.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hence my verb “transitioning”. You seem a ‘can’t do’ person. I hope for ‘can do’ people who will lead us into a better place.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Climate change and pollution aren’t the same thing.

    • Anonymous says:

      The negative effects on human and other forms of life is the same

    • Anonymous says:

      Pollution, whether from animal agriculture or garbage, has absolutely accelerated ocean acidification, deoxygenation, and ocean surface warming. When applied intercontinentally for decades, particularly to the scale of farming taking place, complex atmospheric weather systems, and subsurface currents have been changed. Those are human-derived impacts.

  20. Anonymous says:

    We should all be on solar and see you see should be using solar way more than they do. it’s profits over people.

    • Anonymous says:

      The major impediment for the world over is the oil industry, it’s leaders and their political enablers. Sadly, violence and revolutionary change are the only weapons against this barring alien intervention.

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