Small Islands vs. Climate Change

During COP this year, there has been a large focus on small islands because the host, Fiji, is a small Pacific Island nation. Many other small islands in the Pacific have sent delegations to COP23. Many of these islands are struggling with different facets and effects of climate change. Throughout this conference, many of these smaller nations have tried to make lights of how climate change has affected them. I wanted to showcase some of the big problems that these islands are dealing with.

As a lot of people know, many of these islands are tied to the sea, both geographically and spiritually. Many of the main issues of climate change that are affecting these islands have to do with the sea. One of the most prominent issues is sea level rise. Because of melting snow and ice caps and the warming of the oceans, the sea level all across the world has started to rise. In countries like Kiribati and the Maldives, they have begun to lose land and many people are relocated. The sea level rise is also threatening every other south Pacific Island nation. Because many of the cities and settlements are close to the shore, the effect of rising water has caused significant flooding in cities across these islands. Storm surges are another reason why rising seas are dangerous. When a hurricane or typhoon makes landfall, it pulls water with it. When the seas are higher, more water can flood cities. These are just some of the leading problems that rising sea level causes.

Another main issue is rising ocean temperature. The rise in ocean temperature has led to many different problems in the ocean ecosystem. Coral reefs around many of these islands have been hit the worst. In 2016 and 2017, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia had almost two-thirds of its coral bleached, and around 75% of that coral then died. This is a problem because many animals and bacteria make coral reefs their homes, and this major habitat loss is killing them off. The rise in ocean temperature has also led to another problem: ocean acidification. Ocean acidification has led to many fish and coral dying because they cannot adapt to the changes fast enough.

During the conference, I have heard from Fijians, Tuvaluans, Maoris, and many other Pacific Islanders. They all say that climate change is directly affecting them and the ocean. All of the countries in the south Pacific have ties to the ocean. For many of them, it is their livelihood, and they rely on the ocean to survive. These island nations need help to save the ocean and their way of life. Without the ocean, they can’t live, and because of climate change, the ocean isn’t surviving and neither are they. This is just one of many ocean issues that are facing us right now, but we need to realize that saving the oceans is essential to stopping climate change and helping us adapt better to it.

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