Climate change and the little things that matter

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Climate change. While many people see the term and immediately turn the page, there is no denying the fact that on these shores, the impact is becoming more real by the day.

The onset of heavy downpours despite the fact we are well and truly past the wet season, the ridiculously humid and hot temperatures we have been experiencing and much, much more.

And that’s not all. For us in Samoa, we don’t need to look far. In many villages, the waves these days come right up to people’s houses. 

At the peak of high tide, the coastal roads feel like such a dangerous place to be especially if you are out on Upolu’s east coast.

So what do these things have to do with climate change?

It’s simple really, climate change compounds sea level rise. The hotter the earth becomes, the quicker sea level will continue to rise as glaciers melt away. 

Which means coastal erosion will get worse.

That means the folks living near the sea will soon have to find somewhere high up to relocate to. In some cases, that is already happening.

And with the government pushing for migration towards mountainous areas, more and more people will soon make the move. 

The good thing about Samoa – and some other Pacific countries – is that there are options in terms of land for people to relocate to.

Some other Pacific islands are not so fortunate. The people of Kiribati, Tuvalu and Tokelau don’t have that luxury which is why many of them have abandoned their sinking homes.

The worry is that all indicators have so far pointed to a deteriorating environment – where the earth will sink as its inhabitants run for cover. 

Who knows what might happen in the next five or ten years?

Some time ago, the Climate Change in the Pacific: Scientific Assessment and Research revealed some alarming statistics about Samoa. 

For example, since 1950, the annual maximum and minimum temperatures have increased at the rate of 0.22 degrees celcius per decade. 

The research also showed that sea level has risen near Samoa by about 4mm per year since 1993 - slightly higher than the global average of 2.8 to 3.6mm per year.

And that’s not all. The report predicted that Samoa would experience more hot days, extreme rainfalls and more intense cyclones.

Indeed, never before in the history of mankind has climate change become such a prominent issue. 

And never before in Samoa have we had to hear so much about it.

But climate change is not confined to Samoa and the Pacific.

A report by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Climate Analytics prepared for the World Bank said we are on a path to a 4 degree Celsius warmer world by the end of this century.

The report warned that the scenarios of a warmer world are potentially devastating. 

For instance, it would mean the “inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production, malnutrition; dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased intensity of tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems.”

In light of such a gloomy revelation, a few years ago, the World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said: “Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today.

“Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.”

The fact is we cannot afford to be ignorant about the current state of affairs.

It’s true that the big countries with massive economies are largely responsible for the damage. 

But it’s small island nations like us that are the first, and the worst, affected by the impact of climate change. 

Which means that we must be at the forefront of efforts to mitigate the damage if we want the world to change. And usually, it’s the little things that count. 

You’ll be amazed at how many people are still burning plastics, tyres and all those other seemingly small but significant activities that negatively impact on our already fragile environment.

Let’s also not forget the harmful impact of littering, especially those plastics that we see all over Apia. As we unwind this weekend, let’s think about how we can contribute to protect our environment.

We know the status of the environment is quite ugly and it’s unlikely to get better. But we can help ourselves by doing the little things so we and our children can continue to enjoy this paradise we have been blessed to call home.

Have a safe weekend Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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