Childhood impacted by increasing climate impacts

For the Caribbean, July-August traditionally represents time off from school and an opportunity for children to enjoy the freedom of the outdoors. Now, the climate crisis is forcing them to retreat indoors to avoid the relentless heat.

Oftentimes, we think of the most obvious climate impacts. We envision polar bears and dried land or more intense hurricane winds and decreased water supply. While these are all of critical importance, we must beg the question – What about the unseen underbelly of the climate crisis?

Where does an overheating world leave the sports sector and the children who depend on it?

Climate change is continuing to increase the cost to sports teams and organisations, pushing them to find alternative solutions in an era where rising temperatures across the world, including in the Caribbean region, are forcing organisers to take stringent measures in order to protect children and the next generation of athletes from heat-related ailments.

From taking more breaks to switching to indoor venues and even spreading sessions over longer periods, new measures are being implemented by some sporting organisations. They have been forced to adapt in order to ensure that the highest levels of training are provided to the talented young players.

Young girl practicing tennis on her time off from school.

Known for its regular high temperatures year-round, and the cool tradewinds, the Caribbean is a paradise for consistent high-level training for professional athletes from developed nations during the winter season. Saint Kitts and Nevis, is one of those locations that has played host to major teams and international competitions, such as cricket and athletics.

But as these athletes and their younger counterparts continue to participate in high-level training, they are being hampered by the increasing temperatures currently impacting the world – even though they have not contributed to the emissions that are driving climate change.

According to experts, the territory like many of its neighbours within the region does not have a high carbon footprint.

The St Kitts-Nevis Volleyball Association (SKNVA) is one of the organisations being proactive but feeling the crunch to protect players from health ailments, such as heat strokes. 


National player and Coach, Shawn Seabrooks explained that the Association is currently hosting a summer camp in collaboration with the Sports Departments in the Federation, and they were forced to move the training from an outdoor setting to one that is indoor and relaxing for the players.

“It definitely alleviates the issue of playing out in the sun. Because, under normal circumstances, we would have been playing at Netball City which has no roofing or anything. Just before the pandemic started, we wanted to have a summer camp at Warner Park’s Netball City and we had to adjust the times because we were thinking about going until 1:00 p.m., but because of the immense heat, especially on the asphalt surface, we had to truncate it from 9 -10:30 am.”

Going a bit further, Seabrooks highlighted the challenges of playing at the indoor facility at the Marriott Dome. 

“Every opportunity we get we try to consider the athletes but also at the Marriott Dome, the heat is so exceptional. We are consuming more water and hydrating more than normal because in previous experiences you would have used one large cooler and replenished occasionally, but now we have to consistently replenish our two coolers consistently.”

Additionally, Seabrooks mentioned that they’re dependent on bottled water.

We have definitely recognised that the place is more humid than ever and our athletes, management staff, etc. are taking the necessary precautions to ensure that our athletes stay hydrated.

Over the last several weeks, the Caribbean region, like much of the United States and Europe, has been sweltering under the hot temperatures. In the US, many states have been under 30 and 40 consecutive days of 100°F plus temperatures (38°C plus).

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Caribbean region has seen an increase in temperature in recent years, pointing out that there was a rise of 0.1° to 0.2°C over the past three decades.

The Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) at the start of June issued a statement that tropical Pacific and Atlantic Ocean temperatures should remain well above average, steadily amplifying heat stress in the Caribbean by increasing temperatures, humidity, and heat wave frequency. 

Also in June 2023, Puerto Rico, for instance, recorded a heat index, also known as the “feels like” temperature, of 51.6°C, reflective of the astonishing increases in temperature being felt across the region. 

Trends in global average surface temperature between 1993 and 2022 in degrees Fahrenheit per decade. Most of the planet is warming (yellow, orange, red). Only a few locations, most of them in Southern Hemisphere oceans, cooled over this time period. NOAA map, based on data from NOAA Centers for Environmental Information.

“This year, we experienced our warmest June since 1998, and that makes it the fourth warmest on record,” said Dale Destin, Director of the Meteorological Department in Antigua and Barbuda, during a discussion with the Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting Service.

“We noted too that sea surface temperatures around Antigua and the Leeward Islands were the second highest on record in June.”  

With all of that in mind, Health Minister in St. Kitts-Nevis Dr. Terrance Drew has urged parents to keep watch of their children and ensure that they are properly hydrated.

Sports organisations such as the St. Kitts-Nevis Tennis Association and the St. Kitts-Nevis Volleyball Association have all been forced to take different approaches to dealing with the changing climate conditions, including the rising temperatures.

Parents respond to climate impacts on childhood

Though they are willing to push their children to be the next major athlete in the individual sporting disciplines, parents are equally concerned about the health and safety of their children in the age of rising temperatures.

Several parents who spoke with Climate Tracker expressed reservations and that they prefer the safety of their children over athletic development. 

A mother of three explained that the current weather pattern will stifle children’s development in terms of socialising and being able to enjoy the territory’s culture.

“When we were growing up we played outside all day, especially during the summer period. With the way the heat is right now, I prefer to have my children play indoors and not get heat stroke or heat rash,” she stated.

Children at play during tennis camp, in St Kitts and Nevis

A father of three girls lamented that parents have to be careful with their children who may have asthma, while also being cautious regarding dehydration. He urged parents not to be conservative in their approach to children socialising outside because it could have an impact on their mental well-being.

That point comes against the backdrop that parents will seek to keep their children indoors and not have them engaging in activities outside, which could contribute to impact on their mental health as well as their social development.  

“We saw what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, where children lost their social skills and I am concerned that we might traverse a similar path if we keep the children locked in,” he noted.

In a brief comment on the topic, Minister of Sports Samal Duggins underscored that the government has taken note of the increasing temperatures. 

“We are looking intently at it (rising temperature),” he told Climate Tracker. “I can tell you that plans are being developed for an indoor sports facility. And in short order, you will be hearing about it.” 

Education and sports sectors

Meanwhile, to underscore the challenges of climate change on the children the local Ministry of Education is now making changes to retrofit buildings to accommodate for more natural air to flow. This will cost the government more money in a challenging environment.

“As the Ministry of Education, we take pride in taking care of our students. We will continue to do the education in terms of what is expected of them to 1. stay hydrated and 2. even in our renovation process, we are looking at making some of our rooms compliant in terms of air conditioning units in some of the small schools.”

The government is currently rehabilitating a number of schools over the summer period, and taking the heat into consideration is critical. Additionally, they will have to take a deeper look at the curriculum as Physical Education remains one of the subject areas at all levels.

This story was originally published by SKN Vibes, with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture between Climate Tracker and Open Society Foundations. 


Jermine Abel

Jermine Abel

Jermine is a Guyanese-born, St. Kitts-Nevis-based journalist who has been in the business of reporting for more than 14 years. He is an independent all-round journalist who covers crime, health sports, business, and soft beat among others. He works within the multimedia landscape of the twin-island Federation, providing local, regional and international breaking news. Jermine covers everything under the sun, even if it takes him on the road to uncover the truth. In between working in the newsroom and undertaking other commitments outside of the news arena, he is pursuing his Doctoral Degree in Management.

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