Bonaire is at risk of flooding due to severe climate change, researchers say
The residents of Bonaire are at great risk due to the consequences of climate change. Researchers from the Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam observed that a large part of the island is in danger of flooding due to rising sea levels. Heat waves will continue to increase if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they said.
The research of the VU was carried out on behalf of Greenpeace. The environmental activist organization said that the Dutch government is doing too little to protect the low-lying island, while the Netherlands is responsible for Bonaire, a special municipality within the Kingdom.
Greenpeace, together with residents, is planning to file a lawsuit against the Dutch State to demand "climate justice for the island". The protection of Bonaire is "in stark contrast" to the coastal protection of the European portion of the Netherlands and other European countries, according to Greenpeace.
Professor Pieter van Beukering from the VU called the report the first step to learn more about the consequences of climate change on Dutch Caribbean islands, something that has not been researched extensively. "Our report does not yet clarify how we can best protect Bonaire against climate change, but it is clear that action is needed quickly."
The researchers have elaborated on various scenarios in the report. This ranges from an optimistic version, in which the planet warms up to a maximum of 1.4 degrees on average compared to the pre-industrial era, to a pessimistic variant, in which it concerns 4.4 degrees of warming by the end of the 21st century.
In the worst cases, the capital of Kralendijk and the uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire can flood. But even if it turns out to be less severe, the coast of Klein Bonaire and the southern tip of Bonaire may already be partially flooded from 2050.
The coral reef around Bonaire now serves as a natural breakwater, protecting the island from potential flooding. But the amount of coral will also decrease in the most serious climate scenarios, the researchers said. In the worst case scenario, so much coral will die that only 13 of over 80 dive spots around the island will still be in existence in 2050.
“Governments have a duty to protect us from the effects of the climate crisis,” said Greenpeace Head of Climate and Energy Faiza Oulahsen. "It shouldn't matter whether you live on Bonaire, Ameland or Valkenburg."
Yet, according to the environmental organization, the last Cabinets have done "virtually nothing." In the coming months, Greenpeace will work with the residents of the island to take the first legal step against the government.
Reporting by ANP