Climate Change

Hope, Concern Not Enough – Action Must Follow Latest IPCC Findings

Even though ef­fective adaptive strategies are exe­cuted, there are limits to how much other species and people can adapt.
06 Mar 2022 17:32
Hope, Concern Not Enough – Action Must Follow Latest IPCC Findings
The devastation left behind by category 5 Tropical Cyclone Yasa in December, 2021. Photo: Leon Lord

Sea level rise and sea inundation along  Fiji’s coastal communities will worsen if big carbon emitters carry on with its business-as-usual attitude.

Already, several villages and com­munities are contemplating relo­cation. At least 40 of these com­munities need to move urgently according to Government.

And when you add global heating to the mix – it’s expected to affect our daily lives, from the things we can grow, to how we farm.

At least these are some of the scenarios outlined in the latest In­tergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report.

The report, Climate Change 2022 Impacts, Adaptation and Vulner­ability by ‘Working Group II’ is the second installment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).

The Working Group II report looks at the impacts of climate change on nature and people. It explores the future impacts at different levels of warming, the resulting risks and offers options to strengthen nature and society’s resilience to ongoing climate change, to fight hunger, poverty and inequality.

Like previous reports, the science is bleak for Fiji and the Pacific.

Professor Patrick Nunn, one of the lead authors of the ‘Small Is­lands’ chapter in the report broke down the technical jargon.

“In a warmer world, we will find it more difficult to sleep at night so the temptation to use air-condition­ing (which is often run by power that pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere) is often hard to resist.

“But it won’t help the big picture. We need to design houses – like bure or Samoan fale – that maxim­ise the amount of natural cooling for people inside without using electricity.”

Embedding such indigenous and local knowledge as well as integrat­ing cultural resources into decision making has been identified as a key adaptation option in the report.

A Fijian bure is ade from natural fibre materials.

A Fijian bure is made from natural fibre materials.

In fact, Professor Nunn believes that Fiji can help itself and not de­pend on outside funds) for climate change adaptation.

Another big concern highlighted in the report is the effects of global heating (warm water) on coral reefs like those surrounding the Pacific.

“The world is facing a long-term change in its climate, meaning that in the very best scenarios, the av­erage temperature on the Earth’s surface by the end of this century is likely to be at least two degrees celsius higher than today.

“It may even stagger to more than four degrees Celsius.

“Corals cannot survive in ocean-surface waters that are warmer than 30 degrees Celsius so when this happens, the corals ‘spit out’ the algae within them (that both feed them and give them colour) and become bleached,” he said.

Corals die because of bleaching.

Coral bleaching in Fiji. Photo: Victor Benito

Coral bleaching in Fiji. Photo: Victor Benito

He added that such trends will become annual as more coral reefs will die. This disturbs the marine food chain, and reduce its produc­tivity as sources of food for island people.

“This shows an urgent adaptation priority, namely that if our reefs fail to provide us with the food we are accustomed to having them pro­vide, what will replace them?”

Professor Nunn said such issues should be anticipated.

“Because in the short term it is unavoidable – think about whether the demand could be met by aqua­culture (fish farming).”

He warned that even though ef­fective adaptive strategies are exe­cuted, there are limits to how much other species and people can adapt.

“Going past certain temperatures, the act of adaptation might not be feasible for certain species.”

Mr Nunn is a Professor of Geog­raphy & Co-Director of the Sus­tainability Research Center at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia. He also taught at the University of the South Pacific for at least 24 years.

He was also a lead author of the 5th Assessment Report (Working Group I) of the IPCC report.


Professor Mark Howden

From the Australian National Uni­versity, Professor Mark Howden, believes there is a gap between where we need to be and where we

are – this is in regards to our re­sponse to a changing climate.

The director of the Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solu­tions emphasised the urgency and equity of a stronger ambitious ac­tion towards climate change.

“Climate change impacts often oc­curr because they are not evenly spread across the globe,”

“They are often occurring more strongly in those places which have poor or disadvantaged people, less capacity to adapt than those who live in wealthier countries with very good institutions,” he said.

Professor Mark Howden during Friday's presentation "New UN Report on Climate Change: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability - Implications for Fiji."

Professor Mark Howden’s presentation “New UN Report on Climate Change: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability – Implications for Fiji.”

With the preparatory work to COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt already well underway, Professor Howden is confident that the IPCC report will have a significant im­pact on commitments, promises and delivery.

Across the globe, leading climate negotiators have singled out COP27 as the year to deliver.

“It is really important for the Pa­cific to maintain a strong voice in these discussions as part of their arguments that they put forward in the next Conference of the Parties, the next Pacific Island Forum meet­ing, and all other points of discus­sion which convey the urgency of action on climate change to other countries,” he said.

Professor Howden has had over 24 different roles in the publication of the IPCC report. The latest when he was the vice chair of the IPCC Working Group II for the Sixth As­sessment Cycle.



Delay means death.

United Na­tions Secretary-General, António Guterres was blunt about the real­ity the report highlighted.

“You cannot claim to be green while your plans and projects un­dermine the 2050 net-zero target and ignore the major emissions cuts that must occur this decade.

“We need new eligibility systems to deal with this new reality.”

He added that the Glasgow com­mitment on adaptation funding is clearly not enough to meet the challenges faced by nations on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

“I’m also pressing to remove the obstacles that prevent small island states and least developed coun­tries from getting the finance they desperately need to save lives and livelihoods,” he said.

“I take inspiration from all those on the frontlines of the climate bat­tle fighting back with solutions.”


Executive Director of the UN En­vironment Programme, Inger An­dersen said we are in an emergency, heading for a disaster.

“We can’t keep taking the hits and treating the wounds. Soon those wounds will be too deep, too cata­strophic, to heal. We need to sof­ten and slow the blows by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“But we also need to cushion the blows by picking up our efforts to adapt to climate change – which have been too weak for too long.”


The Working Group III contribu­tion is scheduled to be finalised in early April 2022.

It is responsible for assessing the mitigation of climate change – re­sponses and solutions to the threat of dangerous climate change

This can be done by reducing emissions and enhancing sinks of the greenhouse gases that are re­sponsible for global warming.



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