Paying for Damage Others Have Brought About

For the peoples of the Pacific, climate change is a pressing reality and a matter of survival.

Our Pacific-island region contributes less than 0.03 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, yet we are amongst the first to feel the impacts of climate change — we are on the frontline.

The Pacific ocean is vast — covering nearly one-third of the earth’s surface — and it is vulnerable. Our region has more than 33,000 islands and is home to a diverse range of peoples, whose lifestyles have adapted to their environment over millennia. Climate change represents a new and existential threat to our region.

We have four of the six lowest countries and territories on Earth — Tuvalu, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Tokelau — with the highest point in each country between three to four metres.

Predictions from the IPCC of sea-level rise of up to one metre by 2,100 — if a “business as usual approach” is taken to carbon emissions — spell disaster for our region and our peoples.

As Pacific islanders watch their homes being battered by waves, possessions washed out to sea or witness their root crops dying from salt-water inundation, the general feeling is one of injustice, and that we are paying for damage others have brought about.

Of course, it is not just humans who are impacted by climate change — changing currents, warming seas and ocean acidification are causing fundamental impacts in our Pacific Ocean environment — the major source of our livelihoods and a rich resource to the world.

For example, in warmer-sand temperatures, turtle eggs are likely to hatch out as fewer males and more females, but they will also die if the sand becomes too hot.

Corals can tolerate only a small degree of warming before they bleach and die, destroying one of —> Read More