Like so many coastal communities all over the world, preserving the delicate marine ecosystem and the health of the ocean is of huge priority on the island of Bermuda. Beloved for its beautiful beaches and abundant coral reefs, many local groups work tirelessly to highlight the potential impact of climate change – and what each inhabitant can do individually to make a difference. As a climate positive sport with a goal to become the world’s most sustainable and purpose-driven one, SailGP used last year’s event to activate on-the-ground projects in Bermuda.
But in which ways is the growing climate crisis apparent on Bermuda, and what can a sporting event do to truly make a difference?
How climate change is affecting Bermuda
It is estimated that 143 million people will be displaced by weather-related events by 2050. From rising sea levels to heat waves and hurricanes, many aspects of life on the island will be impacted. Three of the most visible effects of climate change on Bermuda include:
Thanks to the Gulf Stream and the Bermuda-Azores high-pressure system, Bermuda enjoys a sub-tropical climate. The average temperatures range from 18.5°C (65.3°F) in February to 29.6°C (85°F) in August, giving it a comfortable climate all year round.
Due to climate change, the average global temperature could continue to increase within a range of 1.8 to 4.0°C until 2100, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). If we use the model offered by the IPCC, this means that the temperature on Bermuda could increase by an average of 3.6°C by the end of the century.
Rising sea levels
Climate change causes the sea levels to rise in two different ways. Water generally expands when heated – in fact, it is at its most dense at around 4°C. As temperatures rise, the water in the ocean expands causing the sea levels to rise. According to a report commissioned by the Bermuda National Trust, the expansion of the oceans alone could cause sea levels to rise by 0.59 metres by the end of the century, resulting in approximately 462 acres of Bermuda being submerged under water.
The melt water from the world’s glaciers and icecaps adds to the amount of water in the oceans, causing sea levels to rise even further. If the polar ice meltwater is also considered, the sea level could rise by as much as two metres by the end of the century. This would result in a loss of 2,026 acres of land in Bermuda to the sea – a full 14 percent of the island’s total land mass.
The intensity of extreme weather is also increasing in Bermuda, with hot, humid air being trapped in the atmosphere leading to heavy rainfall, storms and hurricanes. Although rainfall is not occurring more frequently, downpours are heavier, and these can lead to flash flooding as the ground is unable to absorb the water fast enough.
Recent research shows that the maximum wind speeds of hurricanes in in the subtropical Atlantic around Bermuda increased significantly. In fact, the winds have more than doubled on average over the last 60 years due to rising ocean temperatures in the region. This is because hurricanes intensify by taking energy from the warm ocean surface.