Posted by: islandsfirst | May 27, 2009

Paint It White

It seems simple in the media. Recent coverage of the Carteret Islands and the Maldives brought sea-level rise to our attention, only to then say it’s not as bad as we thought (see here or here). Even news of a $528m pledge by the Japanese government to Pacific island nations framed the issue as merely one of sea-level rise.

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Hopefully representatives at upcoming UNFCCC talks will have a more informed and nuanced perspective, as disappearing beneath the big blue is hardly the islands’ foremost climate change conundrum.

From the Solomon Star:

The Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Dr Jimmie Rodgers, has written to Pacific Island leaders strongly encouraging inclusion of technical assistance for adaptation in national statements at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks in Bonn from 1–12 June.

The 30th session of UNFCCC’s ‘Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice’ (SBSTA) to be held during the talks provides an important opportunity for Pacific Island countries to negotiate for assistance to adapt to climate change.

“One of the main aims of COP 15 is to determine how to finance efforts by developing countries to engage in reducing emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change,” he added.

“Pacific nations have an undisputed moral position at UNFCCC.

“But we can’t limit our statements to the urgent need for larger nations to mitigate emissions to levels that will prevent the tragic inundation of our low-lying nations and islands.

“We must negotiate for a much broader range of technical assistance to help us adapt to the inevitable environmental changes we will now face,” he said.

Dr Rodgers points out that even under best-case emissions scenarios, the Pacific is projected to experience major changes to the ecosystems that people depend on for food and livelihoods.

Projected higher air and sea temperatures, more intense rainfall in tropical areas, rising sea levels, acidification of the ocean and cyclones of greater intensity threaten the productivity of fisheries and agriculture and jobs associated with coastal infrastructure including resort areas.

Changing environmental conditions are also expected to increase the risk of water-borne and mosquito-borne diseases, especially in rapidly growing urban areas.

“Across all sectors, there is an urgent need to assess the vulnerability of food production systems, livelihoods and the health of our populations,” Dr Rodgers said.

But don’t think it’s only at the UN that these issues should be more fully understood and addressed. Check out, for instance, some work Seacology has been doing in Tuvalu. American Energy Secretary Steven Chu is even proposing the rest of us pick up on cues from islands with which we may be more familiar.

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