Thursday, 8 December 2011

The ire of islands

With COP17 drawing to a close this week, we need to ask what agreements have been reached to avoid the disastrous future impacts of climate change. Global warming will affect nations in different ways, with island states being hardest hit. These nations emit less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet because of their geographic locations, they are have the greatest risk of experiencing the effects of rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Climate change is expected to result in a variety of environmental, social, and economic effects on island states, including:
·         Threats to natural habitat for some of the most biologically diverse areas of the world.
·         Loss of habitable and agricultural land and loss of livelihoods.
·         Coastal erosion.
·         Destruction of coral reefs.
·         Increased intensity and frequency of tropical storms and other natural disasters.
·         Decreased food and water security.
·         Adverse impacts on human health.
·         Loss of sovereignty and cultural identity.

While each island state has laid out plans to adapt to rising sea levels, some nations are better equipped to cope with climate change than others. But the ultimate question we should be asking is why these nations have to make plans without the assistance of the nations that produce the most emissions? Many island countries have openly criticised industrial nations for failing to mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions, as the plight of rising sea levels on these states was highlighted as early as 1989.

So, why has there been no major action, and what will COP17 achieve in the long-run? Will the future bring relief for states like the Maldives, Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands or will these states be in deep water?

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