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Fiji Time: 1:47 AM on Monday 21 April

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Pacific living on the edge

Geraldine Panapasa
Monday, September 09, 2013

PACIFIC Island nations are living close to the edge, where the effects of climate change are tangible, says World Bank's regional East Asia Pacific vice president Axel van Trotsenburg.

Commenting ahead of a scheduled climate change meeting in Marshall Islands for the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership, to galvanise a new wave of climate action, Mr van Trotsenburg said Pacific islands could see and feel the impact of climate change with the planet already 0.8 degree Celsius warmer than in pre-industrial times.

"In the Marshall Islands, the highest point above sea level in the atoll nation is only three metres. It is an appropriate venue for this week's Pacific Islands Forum which focuses on marshalling a Pacific response to climate change," he said yesterday.

"In May this year, an unprecedented drought in the northern atolls of the Marshall Islands left many without enough food and water.

"In July, storm surges combined with king-tides washed over the seawall, flooding the capital city, washing over the airport runway, and contaminating limited freshwater supplies.

"In a very real sense, the Marshall Islands and the wider Pacific region are on the front line of climate change and more frequent natural hazards."

He said as the recent World Bank global report, Turn Down the Heat warned, without ambitious climate action people could experience a 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer world in a lifetime and 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) increase by the end of the century.

"A 4 degrees Celsius temperature means the risk of sea levels rising from 50 centimetres to one metre over the coming century, leading to the loss of freshwater reserves in many island states," he said.