Date of Completion

11-30-2018

Embargo Period

11-29-2023

Keywords

Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Caribbean, climate change, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), adaptation, mitigation, loss and damage, Sea Level Rise (SLR), watershed modeling

Major Advisor

Scott R. Stephenson

Associate Advisor

Mark Boyer

Associate Advisor

Anji Seth

Associate Advisor

William Ouimet

Field of Study

Geography

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access

Abstract

Abstract: Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are among the countries most vulnerable to climate change because of their isolation, geopolitical stature, and limited resources. Climate change will continue to exacerbate SIDS’ vulnerabilities. With this in mind, in this dissertation, I will investigate implications of vulnerabilities of SIDS at global, regional, and local scales.

The first chapter examines the discourse on vulnerability to climate change and its many complexities. Among these is the constant tension between policy makers and academics about vulnerability. This chapter unpacks these complexities in order to analyze how SIDS deal with the notion of vulnerability at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The lack of a clear definition of vulnerability at the UNFCCC has created many tensions among developing countries because the notion of vulnerability is associated with financial and technical resource distribution. However, on a strategic level SIDS have had to demonstrate their vulnerabilities within the UNFCCC in order to remain relevant and compete with other groups for these resources. Chapter one highlights some of these tensions, especially among developing countries, through an in-depth analysis of the concept and discourse of vulnerability within academia and foreign policy through the UNFCCC. The competing definitions of vulnerability by academics and policymakers evoke different methodologies for understanding and measuring vulnerability. Further, in chapter one there are clear indications that within the UNFCCC, prioritizing mitigation policies over adaptation has increased SIDS’ vulnerability.

In the second chapter, I discuss the issues of socio-economic and geophysical vulnerabilities through a loss and damage framework. This chapter is limited to assessing the impacts of loss and damage due to storm surge only in the Caribbean region and does not cover all members of SIDS. The objective of this project is to operationalize loss and damage in the Caribbean region due to storms by analyzing deaths, its impacts on the population and the cost of damage in USD. A second objective is to do a spatial analysis of the loss and damage for different Caribbean islands to better visualize the impacts of storms in the region.

The third chapter examines the implications of SLR within SIDS, by first examining the relevant literature on the topic. Second, by discussing the uncertainties in climate modeling to accurately estimate SLR. Third, I discuss the socio-economic impacts of SLR on SIDS. Fourth, I examine inundation scenario analysis as tool to help policy and decision-making processes. Finally, by applying the "Bathtub Method" (BTM) inundation model I investigate the potential impacts of SLR on Caribbean Islands.

In the fourth chapter, I model major flood events from 1960 to 2013 in the Fond D’Or watershed in St. Lucia. Using GIS techniques and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Hydrologic Engineering Center’s Hydrologic Modeling System (HEC-HMS), I model runoff of storm events within the Fond D’Or watershed. I utilize the Hydrologic Engineering Center’s River Analysis System (HEC-RAS) to evaluate the impacts of floods on the local communities. In order to estimate the probability of the occurrence of a given storm event, I employed statistical techniques such as a frequency analysis to calculate the recurrence interval of such precipitation events. I further simulate a 2, 25, 50, and 100-year storm event.

Finally, in chapter five, I discuss the salient policy outcomes related to the overarching theme on climate change vulnerability as it relates to SIDS. This chapter depicts the policy outcomes to help SIDS highlight their vulnerabilities in order to achieve their goals at the UNFCCC negotiations. I then look at the policy outcomes that SIDS need to consider in order to better address the socio-economic impacts of losses and damages due to severe storm events. In this chapter I also analyze the policy outcomes for various sea level rise and flooding scenarios within SIDS.

Available for download on Wednesday, November 29, 2023

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