Atoll dwellers trapped on sinking islands
The manager of the Pacific Climate Change and Migration project says people living on atolls in the region could find themselves trapped on islands most vulnerable to the adverse effects of a changing climate.
The manager of the Pacific Climate Change and Migration project says people living on Atolls in the region could find themselves trapped on islands most vulnerable to the adverse effects of a changing climate.
Malcolm Ponton says extensive research conducted with communities in Nauru, Kiribati and Tuvalu show that most islanders already feel the negative effects of climate change.
He spoke with Koroi Hawkins about the options available to them.
MALCOLM PONTON: The initial findings are that most people witnessed or have been subject to climate change and that people are anxious about climate change and they are anxious about their future and their livelihoods. The actual individual results will help the governments feed into better policy planning. The project itself is helping them with that planning process.
KOROI HAWKINS: In one of the more specific questions you asked also, the idea of migrating should the situation worsen in their countries.
MP: Most people don't want to move but there's a growing realisation that if climate change progresses and predictions are correct then they will have little option but to move. Their currently looking at the various migration schemes that are open to them, including the New Zealand Pacific access category. There is a growing number of applicants for these schemes so it's quite understandable that they would be considering migration as an option to climate change.
KH: From your studies, is the case that even if people want to move, not everybody can move due to various restrictions?
MP: Yeah. The biggest constraint is opportunities overseas. People need to have skills to be able to move. They can't just get up and pack up their bags and move to another country. They need to apply through the various schemes that are open to them currently. There is a very small window there that they can take advantage of. The other problem which came out of the study is that people just don't have the financial means to do this. The countries that we've studied, there is very little loan support to help them prepare their applications and to improve their ability to get out. The results of the survey are identifying the problems which the governments actually face which they could then transform into better policy making at the national level.
KH: What comes out of COP21 this week or in the weeks ensuing, does that affect in any way the project or the outcomes of the project that you are managing?
MP: The crucial issue from COP21, I think in relation to the atoll nations, is going to be the level of the temperature increase that they agree upon. Now a 1.5 degree increase would probably be sufficient people in these countries to remain. Anything more than that, the science tells us that the increase in the sea level rise and it's not only sea level rise. It's also ocean acidification, increasing storm potentials etc. If that were to occur then it would be in the interests of the countries to look at migration as another adaptation strategy.
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