Migration key climate change issue for Pacific says USP
The USP says the latest climate change report science spells out increasing sea levels, and dwindling fish and crop supply will lead to more migration pressure in the Pacific region.
The University of the South Pacific says migration is the key issue faced by the region as it faces accelerating climate change, pointed to by science in a new report.
Lecturer Dr Keith Morrison told Jenny Meyer many Pacific countries are already facing effects highlighted in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
KEITH MORRISON: There are huge changes inevitable for the Pacific in the future and the changes have already begun to be experienced here. There's relocations already beginning including in Fiji. And in other islands they're seriously beginning to consider migration. This is going to be speeded up over the next hundred years several fold and that is, villages being inundated. Like I say it's already being experienced and there's going to be increasing pressure put on that. The other thing is that the livelihood base from the fisheries, it's going to be severely affected by the effect on the lagoons. Also there's going to be impact on the cropping.
JENNY MEYER: In terms of people needing to move off their land, what are the key environmental drivers to actually making that decision for any particular community?
KM: It's the increasing occurrence of severe high tide. Because there's climate variability and there's climate change. Climate variability is the natural variability in the tides and the bad weather conditions. The unusually high tides, the unusually bad weather is becoming more common. So people's sort of resistance or resilience to be able to cope with this is sort of wearing down. It reaches a point they're thinking 'well perhaps it's better actually to go somewhere else'. So they're at that point now, that people are beginning to think that 'yes, we don't want to keep putting up with this'.
JM: Are there any particular countries that are more prepared?
KM: Tuvalu is prepared to do that. Kiribati is taking the opposite view and their view is 'we will work out some way of staying here'. So Tuvalu has more got the idea 'we will plan to migrate'. In Fiji there are villages now which have already migrated internally within Fiji.
JM: Does the report actually tackle that issue or not really?
KM: No, no the IPCC doesn't tackle these social things and this is what is becoming the focus of the work here at USP is looking at the social aspects of the adaptation.
Dr Morrison says Pacific governments are leading the world in the proactive ways they are responding to climate change including mapping of land resources and research into crop diversity.
He says ironically communities who have retained traditional knowledge may prove to be more resilient than those who have developed Western lifestyles.
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