Why you totally need to care about climate change

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By Jessica Maher:

Climate change is currently at the forefront of international politics both nationally and globally. It appears to be one of the key issues of 2015, with world leaders defining it as one of the key issues of our time. However the attitudes of our generation, the generation to be most affected by climate change, is somewhat indifferent. In a 2013 report commissioned by Australian Youth Action Coalition, climate change adaption did not even come into the top 6 social issues concerning the participants, and to be completely honest, I get it. Although the issue of climate change has been on the international agenda for over 20 years now, admittedly when people would discuss it, my eyes used to glazed over. Before, when I heard scientists talk about rising sea levels, loss of agricultural land, severe weather changes and a host of other effects we will live with, it rendered me a zombie. But not anymore. My catatonic climate apathy status took a dramatic turn last year, when my lecturer told us that in 50 years,  climate inaction will mean the destruction of the communities of the South Pacific.  Based on current scientific data, the islands of Kiribati, Maldives, Seychelles, Torres Strait Islands, The Solomon Islands, Micronesia, Palua, Cateret Islands, Tuvula, Bangladesh and Tokulau and their inhabitants will face peril without dramatic action on climate change – and this is why you absolutely need to care about climate change.

The communities of small island developing states face an uncertain future due to storm surges, coastal flooding, and sea level rise. Their populations are at risk of death, injury ill-health and disrupted livelihoods. Indeed the effects of climate change will ultimately impact the poorest hardest and will drastically alter the living conditions of hundreds of millions of people living on the margin of survival. In a speech to the United Nations, the President of Tuvula compared climate change to “a slow and insidious form of terrorism” committed against them. The challenges of climate change adaptation is extremely problematic as populations of small island developing states face increasing hardship due to natural disasters and other climate change impacts which accordingly diminishes their capacity to adapt. As territories are submerged and rendered uninhabitable the movement of people is inevitable and indeed some nations are already making plans to relocate their residents from the threat of rising seas.

But despite our increasing awareness about the impact of climate change and growing community engagement with the issue of climate change, the plight of our neighbours remains largely ignored by the international community. Our neighbour, Fiji, has been forced to relocate residents, with Kiribati making plans to relocate its community within the next ten years. And this is why you absolutely need to care about climate change.

We are currently in a perilous time in the history of the world. We are the first generation in history to feel the full effects of climate change and the last generation to be able to do anything about it.  Climate change, without urgent attention and action from our own leaders and our global partners, will continue to transform our region and shape our economic, migration and national security for years to come.

IMAGE: Tuvalu

Tuvalu

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