Saving island lives

by Bryan Walker on August 2, 2009

pacificNew Zealand politicians are engrossed in working out how persuasive a case they can make for lenient treatment in any post-Kyoto agreement. One hopes they can find time to consider the Pacific nations who are already suffering effects from climate change. Oxfam has followed up its overview report on the effects of climate change on developing countries, discussed earlier on Hot Topic, with a report specific to our own region The Future is Here: Climate Change in the Pacific. Basically the report says to Australia and New Zealand: here in your own backyard are people already suffering the consequences of global warming;  you are among the rich countries most responsible for what is happening; there are things you need to do to help Pacific nations combat and adapt to climate change.

The most important is to act responsibly in a post-Kyoto agreement. That means wealthy polluting countries like Australia and New Zealand reducing their emissions by at least 40% by 2020 and at least 95% by 2050. The current emissions reductions targets set by Australia and New Zealand fall short of their international obligations.

That said, Australia and New Zealand also have a critical role to play in supporting local efforts in the Pacific to explore and access a range of renewable energy sources and to protect forests across the region. Where mitigation measures are possible they should be supported.

But adaptation measures are now urgent.  Some aid has already been given to such projects, for example, as the Kiribati Adaptation Programme, to which NZ is contributing $1.5m. The report acknowledges a range of such support, but notes that, like Australia, NZ has largely failed to commit new and sufficient funds for adaptation. Oxfam is clear that meeting adaptation measures by simply redirecting existing development aid is a cop-out and will not be acceptable to the developing nations, a point hammered home by Nicholas Stern in his book The Global Deal.

Basic resilience programmes at the level of local communities are favoured by the report. A case study describes five Fijian villages engaged in an innovative programme of community climate adaption.

The villagers are working to climate proof their homes and communities, in preparation for future impacts caused by tidal surges, coastal erosion or flooding caused by heavy rainfall after cyclones. They are trialing salt-resistant varieties of staple foods such as taro, planting mangroves, native grasses and other trees to halt coastal erosion, protecting fresh water wells from salt-water intrusion, and relocating homes and community buildings away from vulnerable coastlines.

But relocation is in some cases the only kind of adaptation available. A community activist from Chuuk State in the Federated States of Micronesia reports:

“Most of the people there are really suffering from food insecurity and lack of water, because of the intrusion of sea water. They don’t feel secure because the water surges have been coming in and actually inundated their area. So there is a concern within the government now that we need to be addressing issues of relocation and having our people to be climate proofing –  to do projects that at least it can help them in the short term. But they’re pretty sure they’re going to have to move in to the bigger islands.”

However internal relocation is not going to be an option for some states. There is no inland retreat or higher ground for Kiribati. President Tong speaks of the need to up-skill the population in readiness for the day when all 100,000 of them will have to move elsewhere and participate in labour markets.

Oxfam says Australia and New Zealand need to engage in dialogue with Pacific island governments, plan to address issues of climate displacement, and develop immigration policies that support Pacific island communities forced to move from their homes.

Past experience doesn’t augur well. Tuvaluan delegates say they raised the issue of a resettlement scheme with Australian officials in Canberra as far back as 2001. A Tuvalu government official commented:

“The statement was hardly out of their mouths before the Australian delegation shut it up. Australia is absolutely against opening up any dialogue or discussion on this. We share this little corner of the earth called the South Pacific Ocean. We were expecting Australia to be a bit more supportive.”

Try again?  I wonder what John Key would say at the Pacific Islands Forum this coming week if any leader was indelicate enough to raise the issue of displacement with him. Talk about the frightening possibility that if NZ takes climate change too seriously it mightn’t have grown to be quite as rich in 2020 as it could otherwise expect to be?

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

R2D2 August 3, 2009 at 9:21 pm

From the report: “Pacific island governments are already tackling climate change related relocation and resettlement” (no source given)

Why do Oxfam need to lie to hype up fear of climate change?

samv August 3, 2009 at 10:03 pm

It was agreed that the most important objective now was to seek land to relocate Taku’u.

– November 2000, crisis meeting notes

‘the challenges posed by climate change were profound and they endanger the ability of island environments to continue to sustain their inhabitants’

– October 2008, Solomon times.

Tuvalu officials were discussing the option of a mass resettlement should rising seas swamp the nation this century

– October 2008, Tuvalu News

R2D2 August 4, 2009 at 12:02 am

Oh so land sinking east of Papua New Guinea constitutes “climate change related relocation and resettlement”? Or is this another case of climate change fanatics relating every crisis in the world to global warming?

Sorry but the sources you present are not exactly scientific either.

Bryan Walker August 4, 2009 at 8:12 am

R2D2

What do you mean Oxfam is lying? You refer only to the statement that “Pacific island governments are already tackling climate change related relocation and resettlement”, to which you appear to have taken particular objection. I wonder whether you have read the report. Here are four quotes from it relevant to your claim:

“According to President Tong, Kiribati must develop a “long-term merit-based relocation strategy which involves the up-skilling of our people to make them competitive and marketable at international labour markets”, given the possibility that all 100,000 people in Kiribati must one day move elsewhere.”

“PNG’s Prime Minister Michael Somare has noted that coastal regions in his home province East Sepik have been devastated by tsunamis or storm surges: ‘In my own village we have moved for the fourth time in one generation in order to escape flooding on one side and sea-level rise on the other. We are probably amongst the first environmental refugees. Our mangrove ecosystems and, in fact, our very way of life is being destroyed.'”

“Loti Yates, Director of the Solomon Islands National Disaster
Management Offi ce (NDMO) notes: ‘The provincial government in Malaita is looking to find land on the main island for future resettlement of people from these low-lying outer atolls.'”

“Some Pacific governments are reluctant to focus on displacement issues, because they feel this will acknowledge defeat and undermine negotiating positions at the international level, as they press for stronger emission reduction targets in the international climate change agreement to be reached in Copenhagen in December 2009. Speaking to the UN General Assembly in September 2008, Tuvalu Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia stated:
‘We strongly believe that it is the political and moral responsibility of the world, particularly those who caused the problem, to save small islands and countries like Tuvalu from climate change, and ensure that we continue to live in our home islands with long-term security, cultural identity, and fundamental human dignity. Forcing us to leave our islands due to the inaction of those responsible is immoral and cannot be used as quick-fix solutions to the problem.’”

Are there any other ‘lies’ you have detected in the report?

CTG August 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Are there any other ‘lies’ you have detected in the report?

Allow me:

– the report is based on the totally outdated notion that the earth is round. Everyone knows that the earth is flat, and anyone who says the earth is round is obviously part of the global socialist communist conspiracy to make me poor.

– the report completely ignores the possibility of time travel as a solution, which I think is a perfectly reasonable approach to mitigation.

Have I missed anything, Artoo?

R2D2 August 4, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Bryan, the issue is the assertion; ““Pacific island governments are already tackling climate change related relocation and resettlement”

You provide 4 quotes.
1, 3 & 4 do not address this assertion, they only claim that in the future this will happen.

Quote 2 talks about tsunami’s and storm surge damage. Do you think tsunami’s are caused by CO2 emissions? Are storm surges to be considered a form of temporary ‘climate change’?

Quote 2 also states “We are probably amongst the first environmental refugees”. I doubt this comment is true, in fact I would be willing to bet my life on it not being so.

The human race has gone through many climate changes before. Were there not refugees when the German Low Lands flooded? ie modern day Holland. What about the Norse settlers of Greenland during the little ice age? The Huns and German people during the post Roman cold period?

CTG: Well put. You have shown me for what I am, any one with an opposing point of view to the AGW gospel must be as naive to think the world is flat and that time travel is possible. Now everyone can see me for what I am. How clever of you to make that connection.

AndrewH August 4, 2009 at 10:51 pm

When sea level rises – or when you are subject to subduction, it’s always the storm surges that get you first.

Dappledwater August 4, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Quote 2 also states “We are probably amongst the first environmental refugees”. I doubt this comment is true, in fact I would be willing to bet my life on it not being so. – R2

Okay. If you’re wrong. I can make sure the suitable penalty is imposed. But of course, we know you’ll simply deny that it’s happening, even when it is.

R2D2 August 4, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Do you think the comment is true? Gee climate alarmists are more effective at erasing history than the Catholic church!

“1.1.1 In the beginning of time the earth was a peaceful place,
1.1.2 nature had blessed the sacred earth with a stable climate.
1.1.3However industry was born,
1.1.4 and this wicked invention committed the original, 1.1.5 sin and changed the earth forever –
1.1.6 and nature punished the people with a variable unpredictable climate”

Bryan Walker August 4, 2009 at 8:59 pm

R2D2

Do you think you can trip Michael Somare up on one of the nit-picks which are your stock-in-trade? It’s perfectly apparent to me that when he speaks of being the first environmental refugees he is speaking in terms of human-caused climate change, not spanning the history of the human race. And I notice that you conveniently ignore his reference to sea level rise in your sneering about tsunamis and storm surges. So far as the other quotes I produced are concerned, if you think that preparing for what lies ahead is not an example of governments already tackling relocation then you are detecting language nuances so fine as to not be worth commenting on – nit-picking again. But when you’ve nothing substantial to offer it’s a way of filling up space.

R2D2 August 4, 2009 at 9:42 pm

lol OK so I nit pick. But it is all to common that Oxfam/Greenpeace/ etc make unsubstantiated claims. Just trying to keep the alarmists honest. Much the same way if an AGW sceptic makes an unsubstantiated claim many on this site will rightly point it out.

CTG August 5, 2009 at 12:09 am

Evidence please. You have just accused one of the most respected charities around of lying. If you do not have some pretty solid evidence of that, it is downright slander.

You go on and on about how the scientists have to produce some evidence to convince you, and yet you make unsubstantiated claims yourself and expect people to believe, just because you are you.

So yes, I do think you are that naive and stupid. Because you have given no evidence to the contrary.

The sad thing is, if the politicians choose to listen to people like you, billions of people will die. Does that bother you in the slightest, R2?

R2D2 August 5, 2009 at 2:25 pm

“From the report: “Pacific island governments are already tackling climate change related relocation and resettlement” (no source given)”

“you make unsubstantiated claims”

Why do I have to explain things multiple times? I can not prove the Oxfam statement is incorrect, only point out that they do not provide a source. How can I prove a negative?

If I said, “some giraffes are in fact pink” could you prove the statement wrong? Could you prove that there had never been a pink giraffe born?

I am free to believe it is a false statement until they provide evidence.

I can be proven wrong with one simple example of ‘climate change related relocation and resettlement’, but I can never prove Oxfam wrong.

samv August 5, 2009 at 4:56 pm

No, you were proven wrong by the first demonstration of tackling relocation and resettlement, within an hour of your first comment on this post. Do you know what that means? Tackling an issue? It means thinking seriously about it, substantial planning. I showed you meeting minutes from 2000, regional news articles. But no, these were “unscientific”. Your comments are making increasingly meaningless points by the day.

CTG August 5, 2009 at 5:03 pm

You said “Why do Oxfam need to lie”. Where is your evidence that Oxfam is lying, i.e. intentionally stating things that they know not to be true?

That is a very different thing from not providing a source, even though as Brian pointed out, the report does provide sources.

It is an outrageous accusation, and you should retract it.

R2D2 August 5, 2009 at 6:10 pm

SamV. Your quotes 1 & 3 dont actually reference climate change as the cause.

The crisis meeting was about…

“the sinking of Taku’u Island”

“The group was informed that according to scientific information circulated the sinking of Taku’u is attributed to subduction/tectonic movement or greenhouse effect”

Hmmmm, how could an island sinking be caused by the greenhouse effect? Oxfam to the rescue?

“The sinking of islands due to the former was discarded as it has been pointed out that subduction has been been nullified by the formation of the Ongtong Java Plateau.”

However according to wikipedia the plateau is 20 million years old….

Make up your own mind, but I am not convinced this is climate change. Global warming would rise sea levels all over the world, how come the only relocations are from islands near the western pacific subduction zone?

CTG: They state that islanders are relocating and then give no source. I do not know of any relocations due to climate change – I’m sure if it had happened it would be all over this website. I can not prove they lied – but it appears they did.

samv August 5, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Your quotes 1 & 3 dont actually reference climate change as the cause.

Sure they do, you even quoted the excerpts from #1 that say that. Just because you rubbish them does not mean that they are not there. #3 says “climate change refugees”.

But what’s one more rubbish claim from R2D2?

Hmmmm, how could an island sinking be caused by the greenhouse effect?

Quite simply, if you think about it. But in reality all you want to do is write more and more rubbish.

Alan August 5, 2009 at 9:52 pm

It seems logical to me that even a minor increase in sea levels for some locations could increase their vulnerability to storm surge-related problems.
I admit, I’m not a scientist, I’m just trying to make sense of it from what I read and, thus far, it seems to me that AGW is real. Perhaps it is coincidence or I really need to look at more sources, however, whenever I look into a critic’s background more often than not they have no relevant expertise, falsify/misinterpret data [from what I’ve seen here, on Realclimate and by Tamino] or have ties to ‘special interests’ which are often oil-related. Given this, why should I trust these ‘critics’ when they deny global warming?
I like to read around and so I had a look at infowars.com [happened upon it while looking at another site] and it looks like they’re having a field day with AGW. Even holding up Ian Plimer’s book as justification, I really do wonder. I got a bit nasty with them and suggested they try and research this a bit more rather than rant on about it being a global conspiracy against the first/second world.

Bryan Walker August 6, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Alan I’m not a scientist either but it didn’t take long to understand the reality of AGW. Several of the books reviewed on Hot Topic provide excellent surveys of the science. It also doesn’t take long to discover that most of the so-called scepticism is based on anything but science. Yes, so far as storm surges are concerned the reality is that they become more destructive with sea level rise and also with an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events.

Alan August 6, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Ah, I’ll look into those books, cheers. I’ve picked up the Hot Topic pdf which I’m reading through [when I’m not distracted by some web searching on this topic]. I’ve also pulled down the various AR4 pdfs to view. Fair bit of light reading there I think.

R2D2 August 6, 2009 at 10:31 pm

If you want to understand both sides, for the sceptic side of the argument you could read any of:

“Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years” by Dennis T. Avery, S. Fred

“HEAVEN AND EARTH, Global Warming: The Missing Science” by Ian Plimer

“Air Con” by Ian Wishart

Or read any of the following submissions:

http://www.parliament.nz/NR/rdonlyres/796B9DDA-9E47-4A4D-A0CA-AC4077C2D82F/103103/DrBobCarter_036_1.pdf

http://www.parliament.nz/NR/rdonlyres/2DB2F7D0-B1FE-40CC-BDF9-5626B491EE7C/103107/DrBobCartersupp2_036B_1.pdf

http://www.parliament.nz/NR/rdonlyres/CE99081C-6CF3-4016-8765-3CE8B33C6278/103599/TheNewZealandClimateScienceCoalition_068_1.pdf

http://www.parliament.nz/NR/rdonlyres/01EBD319-F4BE-4539-AEC3-E0D49A0F9C0A/103597/VincentRGray_001_1.pdf

Or if you find a movie easier, try either “Global Warming – Doomsday Called Off” or “The Great Global Warming Swindle”

Many of these articles/books/videos may have minor flaws, and people will probably reply to this comment pointing them out, but they are minor flaws that do not falsify the overall thesis, unlike the flaws in videos such as Al Gores or the Mann Hockey Stick.

Gareth August 6, 2009 at 10:49 pm

R2, you are unbelievable. “Minor flaws”! More like major and deliberate factual inaccuracies… In fact, I think you have to be some sort of parody of a crank — I mean, trying to promote Air Con at Hot Topic, of all places. Wishart’s “work” has been shown (by me, at length) to be a load of rubbish, and Plimer’s book has been excoriated by the science community in Australia. Bob Carter is quite happy to misrepresent the truth, to the extent of claiming that today’s temperatures are no higher than the 1940s, and Vincent Gray is — I’m being polite — confused. You, on the other hand, are apparently happy to present them as paragons. Says a lot about you, and a lot less about them.

Le Chat Noir August 7, 2009 at 2:02 am

Sadly, C3PO’s obtuse little friend seems to have fallen under the influence of a Sith Dark Lord or some other being from Dante’s eighth circle. But, in memory of his faithful service to the Jedi all those years ago, we cannot deny his simple request.

Real Climate on Avery and Singer. Another review hereCrock of the Week on You Tube.

Monbiot  on Plimer’s atrocities. (includes pointers to other rebuttals)

Gareth has dealt with Air Con on this blog.

The ETS submissions Artoo mentions are all from associates of the Climate Science Sceptics Coalition that Gareth dealt with here.

Cicero on Doomsday Called Off.

The Great Global Warming Swindle dealt with by Real Climate, Monbiot and Greenman.

Sceptical Science is a good place to check up on all the common sceptical arguments.

And finally an interesting video from science historian Naomi Oreskes on the origins of climate change scepticism in the USA.

Macro August 7, 2009 at 9:37 pm

And http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/myths-vs-fact-regarding-the-hockey-stick/
is an excellent analysis of the so called “flaws” in Mann’s “Hockey Stick “

Alan August 6, 2009 at 11:28 pm

When I checked into Vincent Gray he was said to be a coal chemist, I found this to be somewhat curious.

Dappledwater August 7, 2009 at 1:34 am

Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years” by Dennis T. Avery, S. Fred Singerasong, “HEAVEN AND EARTH, Global Warming: The Missing Science” by Ian Plimer, “Air Con” by Ian Wishart

So you’re a comedian huh?. Or perhaps?….. r2d2’s brain is drastically malfunctioning. Where’s C3PO or Chewbacca when you need them?.

CTG August 7, 2009 at 9:32 am

Alan, as you are no doubt discovering, one of the characteristics of denialists like R2 is their pig-headed refusal to discard their talking points, even long after they have been thoroughly debunked.

Stick to RealClimate and you won’t go wrong.

AndrewH August 7, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Dear Black Cat

That was an impressive, if somewhat insomniacal, collation of responses…I’ll have to bookmark it somewhere for next time!

Andrew

AndrewH August 7, 2009 at 6:38 pm

And while we’re making the Star Wars connections it has always surprised me that R2 is so concerned about one world government. Surely that is the norm where he/she/it comes from.

Alan August 8, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Indeed. I have several comment sessions open between several PCs, hurrah for tabbed browsing. One of them being a review of Plimer’s book [I’ve read the air con review here and follow-ups]. I have sceptical science open somewhere although I’m coming to recognise the various and repeated claims used to deny, Sourcewatch.org is another useful resource I use to look into. I’ve just looked through most of the crank videos, I thought they were done quite well.

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