SOUTH PACIFIC: Climate Change Refugees Look to Australia, N.Z.

By Stephen de Tarczynski (IPS)

MELBOURNE, Sep 1 (IPS) – With the apparent effects of global warming already being felt among Pacific island nations, Australia and New Zealand are being urged to do more to prepare for ‘climate change refugees’.

“In Tuvalu and Kiribas we’re already starting to see the effects of king tides and storm surges on the coastline, but in particular, on people’s crops,” says Damien Lawson, national climate justice coordinator from Friends of the Earth Australia.

“People on the islands are not going to just be affected when the sea rises up and covers their land. They’re already affected by sea water encroaching through the ground water and having a big effect on their capacity to grow crops,” he says.

Global warming is regarded as one of the major factors causing sea level rise. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expects seas to rise by between 18 and 59 centimetres by the end of the century.

As a result, inhabitants of low-lying Pacific island nations are among the most vulnerable to the effects of global warming.

A report released in July by Make Poverty History — a coalition of more than 60 aid, community and faith-based organisations, including Friends of the Earth — noted that two villages on Kiribati have already been abandoned due to climate change.

Additionally, some 2,000 people on Papua New Guinea’s isolated Carteret Islands — which are disappearing beneath the waves — are preparing to be evacuated to Bougainville, 86km to the southwest. They are regarded as some of the world’s first ‘climate change refugees’.

With more pacific islanders expected to be forced to leave their homes over the coming decades as seas rise, calls for Australia and New Zealand to prepare to aid environmental refugees are growing louder.

Read on here.

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