Friday, February 10, 2012

Interview with the people of Papua New Guinea about how rising seas are affecting their lives


Video produced by MATUSA (Manus Tumbuna Save association), to raise awareness on how Manus Islanders in Papua New Guinea are being affected by sea level rising and climate change. Filmed by Ngenge Sasa, Lou Island, PNG. Presented in public for the first time at the National Museum of American Indian, during the symposium co-organized by Conversations with the Earth, Oct 2011.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The sea is rising? Island nations will see you in court

From: Los Angeles Times


If the globe keeps warming and the seas keep rising, the country of Palau could be wiped off the map. So the Pacific island is teaming up with other small island nations to fight the threat of climate change -- in court.

The countries want the International Court of Justice to offer an opinion on whether countries that pollute have a responsibility to other countries that get hurt by that pollution. Ecological damage that crosses borders could be seen as a violation of international law, a legal cudgel against climate change.

"It is not an exaggeration to say that climate change is, for us, a matter of life and death," Sprent Dabwido, president of the Pacific state of Nauru, said at a climate change conference in December.

Some island nations have already begun planning to go underwater: Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed recently told the Sydney Morning Herald that his countrymen might need to relocate to Australia as climate refugees. The president of Kiribati, another Pacific island nation, has mused that they might need to build artificial floating islands to cope. Several South Pacific islands have already disappeared.

The same fears have hit closer to home here in California, where Balboa Island, a mere four to eight feet above sea level, is faced with replacing its aging seawalls at a cost of roughly $60 million, The Times reported in December. "We don't want to wait until we have a problem," a city engineer said.

Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Colombia University, has been advising island nations on their legal quest: Can one country take another country to court over polluting it out of existence? He answered our questions about rising seas, shrinking islands and the law.

What would happen to these countries, legally, if they no longer had dry land?

Having inhabited land and a permanent population are usually seen as prerequisites to statehood.  There have sometimes been governments in exile, but due to political and military events, not natural causes.  There is already talk of creating a new kind of legal entity -- the “nation ex situ,” that is, a state that still has its political identity but no surviving homeland. 

Has a country ever ceased to exist because of natural causes?

No. Some islands have been rendered uninhabitable because of volcanic activity, but the complete submersion of a country would be an unprecedented event in human history.  The only precedent is the mythical Atlantis.

Lay out the basic argument for us: Who is responsible and what do they owe these island nations?

The basic argument is that under international law, no nation may cause pollution that causes damage in other nations. Thus the major emitting countries should reduce their greenhouse gas emissions so as to reduce the damage that sea level rise and other climate impacts cause to the island nations.

If everything went perfectly, what would you want to see happen as a result of this case?

The International Court of Justice would issue an opinion that the major emitting nations have an obligation to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. This would not directly compel the nations to reduce their emissions, but it would be relevant in the future international negotiations on climate change.

Even if the case succeeds, can carbon emissions be stopped fast enough to save these islands?

If current emission trends continue, the small island nations are likely to be submerged eventually; it will take a major international effort to prevent that from happening, though the time may be extended.

So if sea levels do continue to rise, what might these countries do?

It may be possible to build houses on stilts and take other adaptation measures that will allow populations to stay for longer periods of time. But eventually, migration to other countries may be needed.

(For more on rising sea levels, you can explore the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration map of sea level trends or watch this video from the Manus Tumbuna Save Assn., which interviews people in Papua New Guinea about how rising seas are affecting their lives.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

UK Climate Change Risk Assessment shows the East of England needs to adapt

From: Cambridge Network

A ground-breaking study into the implications of climate change, and the threats the country faces, has revealed that the key priorities for the East of England include responding to water availability, flooding and sea level rise.

The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) 2012 highlights the top 100 challenges to the country and our economy, and provides the most compelling evidence yet of the need to increase our resilience. 

The research also confirms the UK as a world-leader in understanding climate risk to ensure we can make robust plans to deal with these threats.  It provides underpinning evidence that can be used by the Government to help inform priorities for action and appropriate adaptation measures.

Drawing on information within the CCRA and other local evidence, the analysis illustrates what climate change may mean for people, businesses, community and charitable groups, local authorities, and other organisations across key sectors, at the local level. It also highlights where there is a strong case for greater local action.

Speaking at the launch of the CCRA, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:  “This world class research provides the most comprehensive case yet on why we need to take action to adapt the UK and our economy to the impacts of climate change. It shows what life could be like if we stopped our preparations now, and the consequences such a decision would mean for our economic stability.

“The Climate Change Risk Assessment will be vital in helping us to understand what we need to do to stop these threats becoming a reality. In doing so there is also great potential for growth through UK firms developing innovative products and services tailored to meet the global climate challenges.”

Within the East of England, John Devall, Water Operations Director for Essex & Suffolk Water said: “It is vital for businesses to include climate change adaptation in their business planning processes to ensure a sustainable future. Our project for the development of the Abberton Reservoir in Essex, provides an example of adapting an existing asset to secure water supplies for the future whilst protecting and enhancing the natural environment.”

To respond to the adaptation challenge organisations in the private, public and academic sector in the East of England are collaborating in a network to share information and provide support in order to provide effective and efficient solutions for climate change adaptation.

Dr Aled Jones, Director of Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute, commented: “The need for organisations, both public and private, to work together has been made ever more apparent with the release of the Climate Change Risk Assessment. As highlighted in the East of England summary report our region is already at risk of water scarcity and flooding and this will only get worse with the impact of climate change, coupled with an increasing demand from development and population growth. For example, 25% of all properties in Norfolk are at risk of flooding and almost 50% of water catchment areas are already over abstracted or over licensed at times of low flow”.


The National Adaptation Programme (NAP) - The NAP will set out what policies and actions are needed to take action on the risks (and opportunities) from climate change. Defra aim to co-create this with involvement from all relevant stakeholders, and to ensure a strong local component.

A key part of this will be informed by the 'Call for Views' which means individuals, businesses, local authorities, community, charitable or voluntary organisations can tell Defra:

o how climate risks affect us;

o the most urgent areas for action;

o what action is already underway to address risks;

o the key barriers to addressing risks;

o of new or innovative actions or opportunities for addressing risks.

·         Full details of the UKCCRA can be downloaded at:

·         Regional Packs produced to coincide with the publication of the UKCCRA and local  case studies are available at:

·         Sustainability East is an independent not for profit social enterprise based in Cambridge, which facilitates collaborative activity on climate change and sustainability in the East of England. Sustainability East focuses upon creating responses that are proportionate to the rate and scale of change ahead and encourages a consistent approach, challenging assumptions in order to help organisations make informed and considered decisions.

·          John Devall is Water Operations Director for Essex & Suffolk Water, which is a part of Northumbrian Water Ltd (NWL). He is responsible for the supply of drinking water to 4.4 million people as well as the long term water resource planning and demand management activities of NWL.

·         Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) plays a critical role in allying academic disciplines from across the university together with business and governments. This new research institute focuses its efforts in understanding personal motivations and systems change.

·         In partnership with Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI), Sustainability East facilitates a network of stakeholders working on the climate change adaptation agenda. The network aims to develop a robust adaptation pathway and construct a strong narrative on adaptation for the East of England. This work will strategically link to the National Adaptation Programme work of Defra and the Environment Agency. Further details on the East of England Adaptation Network can be found at


For more information please contact:

Sustainability East: Carly Leonard on t: 01223 361215, e:

Anglia Ruskin University:  Andrea Hilliard on t: 0845 196 4727, e:

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Should Jamestown take action against rising sea level?

From: Jamestown Press

Councilman says town will have to make adaptations to combat climate change


“Rhode Island’s coastal communities are experiencing changes brought about by chronic events, primarily sea level rise, and changes brought about by the increasing severity of catastrophic events, extreme weather ranging from hurricanes to nor’easters.”

This is an excerpt from a recent article by Andrew Baer. According to Baer, the time for talking about reversing the effects of climate change has passed, and the time for determining ways to adapt to new environmental realities is at hand. Baer is a partner in Oyster Works, a Charlestown architecture, design and project management firm. A recent article he wrote for the firm’s website raises important issues for all of southern Rhode Island.

“We are really going to have to think about the impact of sea level rise on the Navy’s infrastructure…we know climate change is not only coming, but it’s here.” This statement from Rear Adm. David Titley of the U.S. Navy Task Force on Climate Change serves as the jumping-off point for Baer’s article titled, “Adapting to Climate Change in Southern Rhode Island.”

Baer himself lives on a coastal salt pond in Charlestown. His father had a keen interest in the environment and started the Salt Pond Coalition, so there is a heritage of being interested in the ecology of the coastal area.

“All the talk of global warming and sea level rise is utterly academic,” Baer said. “This is happening and you can see the changes in the coast.” As an example, Baer mentions the current situation in Matunuck, where houses are being lost to coastal erosion and some residents need to bring in their own water due to salinity in the aquifer.

“We should be proactively thinking about what we can and should do,” Baer said. “We think that forward-thinking communities would begin to at least raise this as a question.”

Jamestown Town Council Vice President Bob Bowen agrees with Baer. Bowen said that the council has even gone so far as to have a discussion about sea level rise with the state Department of Transpor- tation.

“I think [Baer’s] right,” Bowen said. “Adaptation to climate change is where we have to be putting our effort now. We are going to see significant changes, some of which we’re starting to notice already, including coastal erosion and the increased ferocity of storms. We’re going to have to start making adaptations.”

According to Bowen, Jamestown brought up the issue of sea level rise at a meeting last year with the head of the Department of Transportation. Among other things, that discussion included the impact of the rising water level on the North Main Road bridge over Zeke’s Creek. Sea level rise combined with storm surge puts the bridge at risk, and the DOT has it on their list of things to look at.

“As in most states there is a lack of financial backing for some of the things that need to be done,” Bowen said. “So they may be looking at some of the statewide programs like [the Transportation Improvement Program], and starting to target projects that are in need of work as a result of climate change and rising sea level’s impact on coastlines.”

Bowen said that the DOT could use what had been standard acrossthe board infrastructure assistance to local communities, but target specific areas, such as low-lying roads and bridges.

According to Baer, it is important to stress the fact that talking about reversing the effects of global warming and sea level rise on the coastal communities is pointless. The emphasis should now be on finding ways to adapt to the changes that are already here.

“We can accept what is, and we can look around and see what’s happening,” Baer says. “We can make drastic changes in our energy use, smokestack emissions, and other things, and perhaps we can mitigate the damage. But there is no way we’re going to turn it back, and there’s plenty of evidence to support that conclusion.”

Baer says that what we should do is to realize that global warming and sea level rise are happening, and that our communities are going to feel the impact of it. The tasks now, according to Baer, are figuring out how we can mitigate the damage, and how we can adapt to change.

Baer addressed the controversial concept of continuing to build homes on the shoreline from his viewpoint as a builder. “CRMC regulations discourage building in certain areas,” Baer said. “There are certain areas where, if you have a house you can keep it there, but if it gets wiped out you’re not going to be allowed to rebuild. We have to think about to what degree do we collectively, including government, protect things like that.” Maintenance of roads that access these properties should also be part of that discussion, according to Baer.

“How much can the town, state or federal government commit to maintaining this when you know it’s kind of a losing battle?” Baer asked. While he does not claim to have the answers, Baer thinks it is an important discussion.

“This should be a public discussion. It should be convened by business groups like the chambers of commerce and by local planning boards, to begin to raise the issue so that people can at least get familiar with what the issues are so that we can think collectively about the problems and explore courses of action.”

One of the effects of climate change is the increased ferocity of storms. Bowen points to the damage done to the seawalls at East Ferry and along Racquet Road as a result of Hurricane Irene. “Those are costly repairs,” Bowen said. “We need to start thinking about how we’re going to address that, and start talking to the DOT about how we can get some assistance.”

“We have to accept that there is a problem,” Baer said. “We’re no longer debating the science. We’re no longer saying that this isn’t going to happen. This is happening. We are threatened. Our environment is changing. We have to adapt to change.”

Monday, February 06, 2012

President Michel addresses the Leadership Panel of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2012

From: The Seychelles Nation

‘All peoples must pressure their leaders for action on climate change’
President James Michel has called on all nations of the world to take more responsibility for the actions needed to slow down climate change, as well as urging the peoples of those nations to put pressure on their governments to ensure their pledges turn into reality.

President Michel speaking at the Leadership Panel of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2012

President Michel was speaking at the Leadership Panel of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) 2012, alongside the President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, and the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong.

“Our focus should not just be on words but on actions. It is 20 years since the Rio summit, during that time we made a lot of statements. We have spoken about sustainable agriculture, sustainable tourism, sustainable financing and so on, but 20 years later we find that we have many unfulfilled pledges and non-binding agreements to accompany them…. We have seen the meetings of the G7, G20, G77, but what about the G193? …where all the nations of the world get together and our concerns are taken into account?.... The people need to put pressure on their governments to do something about climate change and a binding agreement for this,” said President Michel.

The President said that all nations, the “G193”, should have an equal say in the matters of the global environment, as we live in a global village where we share the same concerns for the future of the planet. He spoke of the struggles of small island states, in the face of sea-level rise, droughts, erosion and coral bleaching, which have affected the populations of island nations like Seychelles and Kiribati.

“It is a question of survival for us…. The relative lack of action of the last 20 years signifies that the cry of those that are the most vulnerable have not been heard...We need a legally binding agreement to limit carbon emissions. The time has come for everybody to develop the political will, a strong political will, for us as humanity, to get together and see how we can seriously tackle this problem and save our only home, our planet.... We need to do this soon as we are running out of time,” said the President.

The President also spoke of the need for leaders to take political risks in order to introduce sustainable plans for energy production, as the long-term benefits for humanity outweigh the immediate risks in loss of popularity.

During the summit, President Michel also met the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, who inaugurated the DSDS 2012.

President Michel (second left) at the DSDS 2012 which was inaugurated by PM Singh (centre)

Also present at the summit were the former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, the former President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, and the former Prime Minister of Norway Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland.

President Michel is accompanied on this working visit to India by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean- Paul Adam, Ambassador Waven William, and the vice-chancellor of the University of Seychelles, Dr Rolph Payet.

This is the second time the President addresses the DSDS.