2016 is projected to be the hottest year on planet earth. The earth is getting warmer. Weather events are becoming more extreme. The earth’s climate is continuing to undergo change that is changing the course of life as we know it. The sweltering temperatures we are suffering through are no longer simply a typical matter of “just being hot”. Temperatures and heat indexes in The Bahamas are now becoming threats to health and life. Governments of The Bahamas must now develop policies and relevant legislation to respond to the public health and safety needs that arise due to rising temperatures. Our leaders travel abroad to make grand speeches at Climate Change conferences, only to return home making no change whatsoever to address the needs that now arise as a result of what experts attribute to climate change.
It is time to devote cross-sector policy and legislative focus to how to protect and preserve life and health as temperatures reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit and beyond. Temperatures at or in excess of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, coupled with our high humidity, can be dangerous to the human body. We need to look at the temperature-based health and safety measures provided in public and private facilities such as schools, hospitals and clinics, office complexes, etc. We need to look into the eventual health and safety establishment of cooling centers where at-risk persons such as the elderly, etc can go to during the daytime for relief. Reliable power supply in the country is also critical to health and safety where extreme temperatures are concerned. Power outages are not just an inconvenience or a threat to commerce. Power outages can become a threat to health and safety during hot weather months, as it can render persons unable to utilize essential cooling tools such as fans, air conditioners, etc. Official heat-index advisories with associated responses required by law need to be established. Rental laws also need to be reviewed in the context of minimum health and safety requirements like ceiling fans or air-conditioning. For those in government who may immediately question how to resource the kinds of electricity needs that would come with necessary climate change responses, the subject here in part is the Sun – of which The Bahamas is in no short supply. We need to stop paying lip service to utilizing renewable energy sources and actually do so. Countries in our region far poorer than The Bahamas are constructing large-scale solar farms for power generation. The Bahamas has zero justifiable excuse for not making serious strides toward using sources such as the Sun to provide relief and safety from the same.
As for the general public, staying out of direct sunlight as much as is possible is key. And staying hydrated by drinking lots of water as well as super-hydrants like coconut water is a must. Do not wait until you feel thirsty – stay hydrated all throughout the day and evening. Cutting down on the use of appliances that generate heat is also key. So is keeping blinds or curtains closed in the daytime to cut down on the amount of sunlight entering your home. Also be aware that some medications for heart, high-blood pressure, seizure or mental health disorders can cause you to be more sensitive to sunlight and hot weather than the average person.
Remember, it is not simply “just hot” in The Bahamas anymore – rising temperatures can cost a person their health or their life. So do not take the heat for granted – treat the heat like the threat it is and can be.