Climate change is terrifying. Ask the island nations
By: Aditya Vashisht
Pessimism is what comes to mind when one thinks of climate change. A combination of deadly events and lack of adequate action have been responsible for causing anxiety among many of today’s adolescents about the world which they shall inherit twenty to thirty years from now. As a fact, climate change is real. Every second news report today would be about floods, hurricanes and wildfires. Europe has witnessed an onslaught of heavy rainfall and subsequent floods this year which are demonstrations of the danger which climate change poses to the people who are concerned with seemingly changed natural occurrences.
Climate change isn’t good news. But while for many of us, it may be like hiccups, but for island nations it is a big disease which some don’t shy to term it as a ‘death sentence’. These small states are slowly coming face to face with the prospect of turning into a rock if efforts aren’t made in time. The latest Climate conference in Glasgow, apart from raising Britain’s global publicity, is also a chance to determine the course of this crucial decade leading to the year 2030, since emission cuts in this period would make the proclaimed targets of many countries for carbon neutrality by 2050 or 2060 a reality. Moreover, it may be the last chance for the island nations of the Pacific and the Caribbean.
A World Bank report upon Marshall Islands, situated between Hawaii and Australia, has stated that a 1 metre sea level rise would result in vanishing of some of its islands. Permanent flooding in the more populated parts of the island has been considered as a staple feature during the said conditions. Surangel Whipps Jr., the President of Palau, himself took the call to point out the increasing occurrences of typhoons in Palau, the worrying factor being that his country lies outside the typhoon belt of the Pacific. This is indeed a far reaching situation and presents itself as a cause of worry.
Injustice is the word which occurs in the mind when one takes stock of the whole scenario. The island nations of the Pacific are responsible for an extremely minute proportion of the total emissions of the world but it is they who are the first to face the wrath resulting from the activities of the bigger nations. The increasing threat has compelled Pacific island nations to take some steps in order to adapt to the situation which may prevail in the future. An example of this is the decision to fix their maritime boundaries, so that if in the future they face shrinkage of their land territory, at least they may not be divested of their crucial maritime boundaries. A report in August of this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has mentioned that every 0.5 degree increase in global temperature brings with it a hefty package consisting of heatwaves, heavy rainfall, droughts and what not.
To say about the island states of the Caribbean, the situation is more or less similar. But still, an attempt should be made to present their case before everyone. To take some instances of reality, Hurricane Irma of 2017 was responsible for rendering the island of Barbuda, a part of the nation Antigua and Barbuda, uninhabitable. Most of the buildings were destroyed and the population had to be evacuated, the result being that not a single living human being was living in Barbuda for the first time in 300 years. Hurricane Maria in the same year had caused a huge amount of rainfall in Puerto Rico. Santo Domingo, the capital of Dominican Republic, is considered to be one of the top five cities around the globe which are at risk from sea level rise.
These events are burdensome. Most of the resources which could have been used for public welfare in normal times are diverted for recuperation. This leads to an increase in indebtedness. Moreover, rising sea temperatures impact fisheries, which are vital source of livelihood for these countries. Extreme weather events are held accountable for the damage heaped upon sugarcane crops in Cuba and banana plantations in Jamaica. Again an imbalance is seen and the victims arise.
Mia Mottley, the Prime Minister of Barbados has recently warned Caribbean countries to prepare themselves for climate change. Her country, Jamaica and a few have formulated adaptation plans and Caribbean nations have entered into partnerships with likes of Japan and the United States in order to brace better for the arriving future. Moreover, CARICOM countries are advocating for a mechanism for holding big emitters accountable and make them pay for the damage they are causing. The point to be kept in mind is that there is a multitude of players in this simple yet complex issue of climate change. The presence and frantic appeals of the leaders of the Caribbean and the Pacific heightens the shrillness of the alarm but the ball lies with those who are held responsible for the said situation in the first place.
COP 26 is momentous and it shall be seen how countries, who a few years ago were considered ‘safe havens’ against natural calamities respond to a year which has seen climate change making incursions into their own lands. The decision here and the action after will be highly instrumental in determining the future, whether will it be having some love or will hate be on a whole new level?
The writer is a student and blogger.