I didn’t hear any climate change denial in Cuba. In fact, the environment ministry people outlined to me a detailed climate change adaption programme. They calculate that if there is an 85 cm sea level rise by 2100 twenty one communities by the sea will disappear, and many others will be badly affected. They dazzled me with colour coded maps and statistics about which coral reefs, mangroves, beaches and communities will be affected and what needs to be done over the next decades. It’s not just the sea level rise they are worried about. Every year hurricanes create waves which swamp coastal communities, and the heating of the sea that accompanies climate change will make these waves bigger and more frequent.
Hurricanes are the main focus of attention at the national centre for civil defence which I visited. For some years they have successfully avoided loss of life by being one step ahead of the storms as they gather around the Caribbean, and initiating community evacuations. Now they are paying attention to possible earthquakes, worried that the fault line responsible for the big Haiti quake might extend to Cuba. They were interested in how New Zealand has responded to the two Christchurch earthquakes. The months of aftershocks make earthquakes a different kettle of fish from hurricanes. Both disasters have a huge impact on families and communities, but after most hurricanes you can pretty safely begin the process of rebuilding.