Opinion

EDITORIAL:Why We Should Take Prime Minister Bainimarama Seriously About Climate Change

When Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama next talks about climate change let’s take note. The impact of climate change is evident in many parts of Fiji.  At Nananu Village in Tailevu,
02 Sep 2017 12:42
EDITORIAL:Why We Should Take Prime Minister Bainimarama Seriously About Climate Change

When Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama next talks about climate change let’s take note.

The impact of climate change is evident in many parts of Fiji.  At Nananu Village in Tailevu, the villagers are facing a serious predicament. They either relocate or reconstruct their seawall which has been ravaged. They do not want to move to a new site because of their cultural and emotional connection to the present location. This is where they were born and bred. This means they have to rebuild their seawall so that it can stop the encroaching sea.

This past week, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, gave them the good news. Guandong Province in China will rebuild the seawall as Chinese aid.

The old seawall has taken a battering from rising sea level and wild weather patterns over the years. Tropical Cyclone Winston last year gave the final knockout blow. We and our neighbours in the region are not alone in this climate change battle.

From the United States, to India, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, China and Pakistan, people there are feeling the impact of climate change.

Devastating floods of unprecedented levels are now being seen across the globe. In the US, Hurricane Harvey has caught people by surprise. In Houston, it wasn’t the wind or storm surge. The city was pelted with rain and water was everywhere, changing highways into rivers, inundating homes, claiming lives and sending thousands fleeing to higher ground. If this is not climate change then what is it? They have not seen anything like it before.

We join our PM in asking US President Donald Trump to reconsider his decision to pull out from climate change negotiations because no one is immune to the impact of climate change, not even the US.

Climate scientists say because of increasing carbon pollution, the waters in the Gulf of Mexico, over which Harvey formed, were about five degrees higher than average.  They say as the world warms, evaporation speeds up, meaning on average, there is more water vapour in the air now to sweep up and later dump over land. Also, because hurricane winds are generated by the difference in temperature between the atmosphere and oceans, the warmer waters tend to intensify as hurricane gales.

They also explain that warming climate fuels sea-level rise, which is the result of the thermal expansion of the oceans and the melting of glaciers. Higher seas mean bigger storm surges, which can be devastating. But when the seas are higher, it also means that it is more difficult to drain rainwater into the ocean. The scientists say that is what happened in Houston: The water had nowhere to go.

In Fiji, coastal villagers, settlements, hotels and resorts are all vulnerable to the effects of the rising sea level.

Nananu is one of the many villages asking for funding to mitigate the effects of climate change through the construction of more resilient or robust seawalls.

That is why Mr Bainimarama’s role as president of COP23 is absolutely important. With the help of like-minded leaders, they can use their political clout to implement the terms of the Paris Agreement. It will need political courage when it comes to debate whether to do away with cheaper fossil fuel and replace it with more expensive but cleaner energy alternatives. That will determine whether we can cut global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as agreed in Paris.

The pre-COP conference in Nadi in October will be a great opportunity to lobby for support of the Fijian position. Then hopefully in Bonn, Germany, in November, everyone will agree to implement measures that will achieve the Paris Agreement target.

That will be a huge achievement for the Fijian presidency because it will affect us in this part of the world in a positive way.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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