Menu lock

Federal

Jul 27, 2009

Kiribati and Tuvalu climate change strategy: total evacuation

Climate change is already having major effects on Pacific Island states, says a new report from Oxfam. Australia and New Zealand need to stop hoping the problem will go away.

Climate change is already having major effects on Pacific Island states, according to a new report from Oxfam, which looked at mitigation and adaptation strategies in the region and assistance from Australia and New Zealand.

The report makes clear that Pacific States, which have long been identified as some of the most vulnerable nations in the world to climate change, are facing serious impacts already from rising sea levels, altered weather patterns and rising temperatures. In many cases the impacts are a consequence of multiple causes, including human activity such as logging.

Among the impacts identified in the report:

  • The Solomon Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia have all suffered major — in some cases historic — flooding or storm surges in the last twelve months, with loss of life, crop damage and, critically, damage to local infrastructure such as hospitals and roads.
  • Coral bleaching is becoming more widespread and regular in Tahiti, Palau and parts of Melanesia
  • Health impacts of rising temperatures are emerging: in PNG’s Western Highlands Province, the number of malaria cases increased eightfold between 2000-05
  • Coastal communities in Fiji are switching to salt-resistant staple crops because of the impact of tidal surges on soil quality, and planting mangroves and grasses to halt erosion and protect freshwater wells from salt. Relocation of homes and villages is also underway.
  • The seasonality of foods is changing, with some plants appearing earlier, and traditional wind patterns are being replaced with far more variable weather.
  • Villages are being repeatedly relocated as a consequence of storm surges and flooding, leading to searches for unused land to relocate entire communities. The Malaita provincial government in the Solomon Islands is looking for land to resettle people from low-lying outer atoll.
  • The Government of Kiribati has prepared a long-term training plan to make its people’s skills more “marketable” in other countries to assist in international relocation.
  • Nations such as Tuvalu are already debating what the entire evacuation of their country will mean for its national identity — and issues such as its economic exclusion zone and UN seat.

A simultaneous report from the Australia Institute has criticised the level of Australian support for Pacific states in addressing climate change. The Rudd Government has committed $150m in funding for the region for adaptation projects, after years of climate change denial from the Howard Government, which insisted on portraying the regional through a national security “arc of instability” lens. While welcoming the Australian assistance, Oxfam suggests up to $300m a year is needed to establish serious adaptation programs, as well as a genuine commitment to keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees.

Both Oxfam and the Australia Institute note that Australia (and New Zealand) appear unwilling to develop a strategy for, or even discuss, forced migration among the Pacific’s 8 million people. The Institute reports that Department of Immigration officials as recently as October last year were explaining the lack of planning for displacement of Pacific people by climate change on the basis that mitigation was the key to addressing climate change, followed by “internal relocation” and international resettlement as a last resort.

As the Oxfam report shows, internal relocation is occurring already. It will almost certainly lead to greater internal tensions as disputes over access to land and water grow between displaced and settled communities. A number of states are politically fragile enough without the added problem of internal refugees.

All of these states face the double problem of being among the first exposed to the impacts of climate change — like Australia — but unlike us have very limited resources to deploy in mitigation and adaptation strategies, and are more vulnerable to internal tensions as the need to relocate communities in a heavily agriculture-dependent economy increases.

However, Australia and New Zealand both appear to be hoping the issue of international resettlement somehow goes away, and do not appear to have even focussed on how they will assist regional governments in dealing with the problems generated by internal relocation. But as the dominant powers of the region and the most likely destinations for people displaced by rising seas and vanishing resources, they don’t have a choice.

We recommend

From around the web

Powered by Taboola

28 comments

Leave a comment

28 thoughts on “Kiribati and Tuvalu climate change strategy: total evacuation

  1. Jim Reiher

    What a pity Senator Fielding did not visit Karibati when he was looking for evidence for climate change. I guess he can pretend that those 30 islands that have no land higher than 2 meters above sea level, don’t exist either! In fact, give them a few decades, and many of them wont. (Two of their islands disappeared into the sea in the late 1990’s). The 100,000 people on those islands are already struggling. Soil is being contaminated by the rising tides and the salt is destroying their coconut trees that are affected by those rising tides.

    Some of our politicians need to get out of the “board rooms” and the “conservative think tanks”, and roll their sleeves up and visit some of these places. Might do them wonders. And just might help make a real difference.

  2. Most Peculiar Mama

    Not ONE of the ‘impacts’ above ascribed to ‘climate change’ by climate ‘experts’ “OxFam” can be attributed to ‘climate change’.

    There is no evidence linking any of these ‘events’ to chnages in carbon emissions, amospheric temperatures or changes in sea level. None.

    Surprise, surprise that the (simultaneous [LOL]) conjoined cacophony of impending apocalypse by the always impartial Australia Institute recommends WE DO SOMETHING…NOW!!!!!

    The desperation shown here by the ‘Warming Club’ is set to eclipse Fawlty Towers as the greatest comedy of all time.

  3. Pamela

    So why are the islands disappearing Mama?
    Why is the sea invading the land- do tell please?
    Why are fires raging in Europe as they raged in Oz but a few months ago?
    Why why why?

  4. Andrew Frost

    Andrew Bolt doesn’t believe this is happening – so it isn’t. Take that ocean levels!

  5. Evan Beaver

    While I think Mama is a complete birk, he/she/bot does raise an interesting point, albeit very badly.

    Sure, these things are happening, they’re proper observations and are indisputable. Their cause though is up for debate. Long term farming trends changing are a fairly reliable indicator, but gross sea level is not. It is possible that the increase in (at least some) of these incidents is improved record keeping. As the accuracy of our observations has improved with time, it is difficult to say with any certainty that this isn’t just ‘noise’. Sea level hasn’t gone up very much at all (yet), so it’s difficult to imagine huge instances of land loss. However, the double whammy of a small sea level rise (which would be amplified at the Big Tides) and a bigger than normal Tropical Cyclone would lead to much worse events on land.

    My point is that causation is incredibly difficult to detail with proper science. As an old mate used to say “science is good at what, not why.” I would rather see these organisations use more reserved language such as ‘it appears that…’ or ‘a possible cause is’. The sceptics are jumping all over the absolutes in the CC discussions when the truth is that it is, and always will be, a numbers game, an enormous statistical mechanics problem where the whole world plays. Problem is, the media, and their reading public don’t understand this sort of language, and require the debate be bought to the lowest common denominator (the Tele).

    “Give it to me straight, are we all going to die or not? Yes or no?”

  6. Most Peculiar Mama

    Why why why?

    Are they Pamela?

    You believe what you want to believe. Others deal in facts.

    Please provide evidence to support your ‘observations’.

    “Give it to me straight, are we all going to die or not? Yes or no?”

    Dear Evan, always with a sense of the over-dramatic…a regular Sarah Bernhardt, eclipsed only by your arrogance.

    If Noah was building a Climate Ark you’d be pushing to the front insisting on being taken aboard, however the answer to your question is an emphatic NO.

  7. James Bennett

    Hey Evan,

    How does a small sea level rise get amplified by big tides and a super-duper cyclone ?

    Wouldn’t a 6inch rise in sea level just result in a 6inch increase in the effect that a big tide and a big cyclone would have anyway ?

    And if so , So What ?

  8. Evan Beaver

    I’ve got no idea what Mama is on about.

    James, I’m actually guessing a bit, but here’s the logic. Average tides are measured as the mean between high and low tide. Someone reports that ‘the average has increased by XXmm’. I’m not sure if that means both the min and max increase by XX, or if the range spreads a bit more; that the increase is percentile, meaning that if the number is bigger, then the increase is bigger. I’ve never actually bothered looking into it.

    But on the cyclones, this is a very well understood phenomenon. Have a look at the Storm Surge article on Wiki for a start. The bigger the cyclone, the lower the low pressure system and higher the wind. Local low pressure makes the sea locally higher, on-shore winds pile the water up against the shore. Add all this together and more things are under water.

  9. Stuart Moore

    Simple what natural compaction of an open coralline structure on the top of a seamount (underwater rise/volcano for the uninitiated) does to the relationship between the top of the atoll and the water level, isn’t it? One has to wonder why certain ‘specialists’ blatantly ignore the impact on the local (island) environment, and disruption of the coral accretion (growth) processes, by human pressures. These island atolls kept pace with ocean levels for millennia, until the growth points at the water surface were disrupted (just like a palm tree!). It is very difficult to accept dramatic sea level rises at several isolated mid-ocean islands when the change in true sea level around the globe generally, excluding isostatic adjustments, is the better part of buckleys and none. By the way, climatic variation is an ongoing cyclical process that has been going on since the earth was formed and independent of carbon dioxide. Time is the key….. look at what has gone before and realise that current events are not unusual 😉

  10. scottyea

    Dot points!! OMG, everybody PANIC!!!

    No, really, The progression of these climate change trends will test our Western liberal ethic to the extreme. Do we ‘all’ really have the ‘right’ to happiness etc., or is it just ‘us’ – Australians/whiteys/etc.?

    The GFC has a) concentrated wealth at a quickened pace, and b) given Government a Lot More Power. What will all this change mean to our Pacific Island neighbors?

    The Govts stance on boat people shows how that might pan out. …