Belize, as a tiny country located on the Caribbean Sea, is among the most endangered and disaster-prone countries in the world. For citizens along the coasts, which hosts the second largest barrier reef in the world, the impacts of climate change are apparent. Ocean temperatures are rising every year, resulting in coral bleaching and reduced fish catch, both of which greatly impact local livelihoods. Weather events are becoming more intense and more common – the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season had a record 30 named storms – disrupting economic activities and severely impacting the lives of local communities.
Marine and coastal resources support many of Belize’s vital economic industries; hence, conserving Belize’s ocean resources is critical for the country’s economic and social survival. Moreover, these marine resources also support climate change adaptation and mitigation. In fact, the barrier reef and mangrove ecosystems are absolutely critical for protecting Belize’s coastal communities from the increasingly strong storms that are likely to occur in the future.
In the words of a Belize educator Kieron Xiu, “Belize has prioritized climate change. Why? Because we’ve seen the effects in other countries, and we need to prepare ourselves. Climate change – it’s happening already. And we can see the effects already sprouting in our barrier reef, especially coral bleaching. The world is getting warmer, so the reef life is dying. And that’s alarming. Imagine there are no fish, no fish meat to eat, how will we survive?”
Climate change is all around us and happening now – all you need to do is open your eyes and look for yourself.