Sinking islands | ‘Pacific islanders can become migrants and refugees’

FILE PHOTO: Local residents fish in front of the abandoned site of the old Vunidogoloa Village, Fiji, July 19, 2022. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

The risk of sinking islands will turn citizens of Pacific nations into climate migrants and refugees.

Education International president Susan Hopgood mentioned this to teachers trade unionists at the Educators for Climate Justice and Just Transition Conference in Lautoka last week.

“When sea-level rise is coupled with storm surges resulting from more frequent storms and hurricanes, coastal inundation and saltwater intrusion become a bigger threat to the safety and lives of frontline communities,” Ms Hopgood said.

“This means that the Pacific must also contend with the escalating threat of rising sea levels.

“According to UN scientists, the global trend of surging seas will be most consequential in the Pacific as it poses a threat not just on the habitability of small island nations but to their very existence and survival.”

Ms Hopgood explained that the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and the existential threat of rising sea levels in the region point to an obvious conclusion — that despite the availability of clear and concise climate science, inaction, climate denials and short-sighted political opportunism have combined into an historic threat to the region.

She reiterated that as educators and unionists, their commitment to build a better world is vital in a region where surging seas and intensifying storms are threatening to destroy schools and communities.

“We stake our claim for climate justice.

“We stand in solidarity with frontline communities fighting to preserve their homes, livelihoods and traditions.

“We are united in calling for rapid decarbonisation and funding for adaptation to climate change.

“Not just because it is the right thing to do but because the next homes that get washed away by yet another super typhoon could be our own.”

Teachers, trade unionists from the Pacific were part of the week-long seminar.

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