It’s now been over a year since the UN Climate Summit in France, when the world came together to adopt the Paris Agreement, a first of its kind global climate agreement to reduce carbon emissions. In that process, despite its diminutive size, the 70 square-mile Marshall Islands helped lead the charge. Since negotiating internationally binding agreements is tough work, we were on hand with an ice cream intervention!
Tony de Brum – the Marshall Islands’ Minister of Foreign Affairs – was the first recipient for a well-deserved restorative scoop of ‘Save Our Swirled’, a flavour that was concocted to help raise awareness and funding for climate action.
It’s time for us all to pool together to help by keeping to our already pledged goal to ensure we don’t go more than 1.5°C of warming.
The Front Lines of Climate Change
More and more, we’re seeing that climate change isn’t a distant threat. It’s happening right here, right now, and places like the Marshall Islands are on the very front lines.
A Rough Deal
Some might say this low-lying island nation has had it tough. From being a testing ground for nuclear weapons during the Cold War to having three entire islands vaporised by a bomb dropped on Bikini Atoll in 1954. As if the radioactive fallout wasn’t bad enough, rising sea levels caused by climate change are now threatening to leave the entire country under water, despite the miniscule contribution it makes to global greenhouse gas emissions.
To add to this, poverty levels are the highest in the Pacific, which is more than a little ironic considering its decades spent under US administration and its use of the US dollar. If that ain’t a rough deal, we don’t know what is!
As its shoreline steadily washes away, more and more people are being forced to evacuate. Around 20,000 (a third of the total population) Marshallese now live in the United States.
Currently, a compact of free association allows Marshallese people to live and work in the US without a visa, although it’s due to end in 2023 and there are no guarantees that it’ll be renewed.
Many islanders fear that the doors to safety will snap shut leaving them nowhere else to go, which is powerful impetus to pack up and leave while they still can. That is, if they can part with leaving their home, friends, and way of life.
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One islander summed it up perfectly in a heartbreaking article that appeared recently in The Guardian. “When the next uprising from the sea comes and washes away all the crops and stuff from people’s houses, then what? We are going to go under. The water is going to keep coming up and we’re going to have nowhere else to go. We’re going to have no place.”
1.5 to Stay Alive!
It’s not just remote and low-lying islands that stand to suffer from climate change – what happens to the likes of the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Fiji today will happen to other places tomorrow. Major urban centres like Sydney, Mumbai and New York are at risk, since large areas of them are barely above sea level. That means tens of millions of people will be directly affected.
If we’re to avert this impending disaster and keep places like the Marshall Islands above water, we need to make sure we stick to our long-term goal of no more than 1.5°C of warming. With COP23 around the corner, it’s vital that we keep up the pressure on global leaders to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement, so let’s get together and shout out the message loud and clear!