Climate change is real, show empathy and leadership

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Alexander Rheeney

Forget what the climate change skeptics are saying—it is real and already affecting millions of lives on the planet—including the Pacific Islands.

In America authorities put the death toll from the devastating fires in California last month at 85. American’s most infamous climate change skeptic, US President Donald Trump, blamed the state’s forest management practices and brushed aside climate change, despite the US Government-funded Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) warning Americans in its National Climate Assessment to brace themselves for the worst—less than a week after Trump’s comments.

In Australia, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk pointed the finger at climate change, for over 100 bushfires that raged in northern Queensland over the last 3-4 weeks. The Australian Federal Government then announced an inquiry into land clearing laws following the bushfires, and just like Donald Trump, Prime Minister Scott Morrison blamed the Australian state’s land clearing practices! 

Here in the Pacific Islands, there are coastal and island communities around the region who have reported unprecedented heat wave levels in recent weeks, making life difficult and uncomfortable for vulnerable members of the community. According to the US Government’s National Climate Assessment, Pacific island communities can expect to grapple with the usual climate change impacts: rising sea levels, weird rainfall patterns, drought, flooding, and extreme temperatures. There will also be implications for supplies of island drinking water. Rising temperatures in the region could also have implications for food security.

And yes it is tough trying to sway public opinion, in a world filled with individuals and organisations, who are championing causes that will directly impact or have a detrimental effect on the lives of Pacific Islanders including Samoans. But why throw in the towel when the future wellbeing and prosperity of our people are at stake? 

Therefore, we can only hope that Samoa’s high level delegation to the Katowice climate change conference (COP 24) in Poland from December 3-14, garners support from other Pacific Island nations and the international community to be our voice. We note the push for 1.5 degrees and the warning that the level of impacts associated with 2 degree warming versus a 1.5 degree warming are severe. 

“The risks to marine biodiversity, fisheries, and ecosystems as well as their functions and services to humans are greatly reduced at 1.5°C compared to a 2C world; once we pass 1.5C the risk of passing critical thresholds leading to irreversible multi-metre sea level rise increases considerably which would be catastrophic for Pacific island nations and territories and; at 1.5°C some coral reefs will be able to adapt, while at 2°C their chances of survival are next-to-none. This will have significant impact on this line of defense for islands and coastal communities,” stated the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPRE) in a statement released from Poland.

Last month the United Nations reported that G20 countries account for around 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Australia and Indonesia are among the G20 economies within the region that will fall short of meeting their emission control targets in 2020. 

It is time for common sense to prevail and for the world’s biggest carbon emitters to make a firm commitment at the COP24 towards reducing their emissions. Australia and Indonesia—as member states within the Pacific—should do the right thing and start moving towards reducing their emissions. 

What do you think? Have a lovely Monday and God bless.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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