Year 2, Month 9, Day 23: He Sounds Way More Polite Than I Would Be In A Similar Situation

Marcus Stephen is the president of Nauru. Here is his op-ed in the Solomon Star News; you should read it.

NEW YORK (Reuters AlertNet) —- Standing before the United Nations Security Council on July 20, I described the existential threat posed by climate change to Nauru, my country, and other island nations in the Pacific, arguing that it endangers regional and international security.

After a vigorous open debate, the president of the Council issued a carefully parsed statement that acknowledged that climate change, in some circumstances, could exacerbate pre-existing tensions and undermine the resolution of armed conflicts.

Elsewhere in the UN complex that same day, officials were preparing to announce that a threshold for misery – separating a humanitarian crisis from a full-blown famine – had been crossed in the Horn of Africa.

Today we know tens of thousands of people have died and another 750,000 are at risk of starvation across the region because of the drought.

The timing of the announcements was coincidental, but their convergence reflects how environmental catastrophes made more frequent and intense by climate change are surpassing the ability of political institutions at all levels to respond effectively.

I wish the world’s richest weren’t being so stupid. Sent Sept. 19:

It is cruelly ironic that the nations most immediately affected by climate change are almost always the ones contributing least to the carbon footprint of our industrialized planetary culture. While Arctic ice dwindles and the temperature rises, many of the world’s largest developed countries are unable to address the crisis. By accidents of geography, many of these nations happen to be less vulnerable to rapid climatic transformations and extreme weather events; perhaps this makes it easier for them to abdicate their responsibilities as members of the international community.

Their indifference to this immediate existential threat is baffling. Island states, placed by nature on the front lines of climate change, have no such luxury. Marcus Stephens is correct in calling for a special representative on climate at the United Nations, something that should have happened decades ago. There may still be time to mitigate the worst of the coming storms; there is none to waste in petro-political posturing.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 3, Day 12: Arkansas Traveler Edition

Sort of groping today. I stumbled across an article in the Solomon Times (Pacific Islands) about a regional conference to address climate change’s impact on the fish economy. Not really inspiring stuff, frankly — but I was too tickled by the thought of writing to an outlet in the Solomon Islands. Then I read this:

4 March 2011 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today pledged United Nations support to help Pacific Island States mitigate the impact of climate change, noting that many of them are “on the front lines” of the battle.

“As you know, the clock is ticking. We must do whatever we can, wherever we can, as quickly as we can, to protect the most vulnerable,” he said in a message to the Ministerial Regional Conference on Climate Change in the Pacific, which is being held in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

“It is critically important for the Pacific Island countries to continue to raise their voices on climate change. Your communities are on the front lines of this global threat. Small island developing States are among those that are most vulnerable to climate impacts. You know first-hand the destructive potential of rising sea levels, more intensive storms and other hazards.”

And that triggered the following letter, ostensibly sent WRT the Fish/Climate Change Conference, but actually addressing the UN committment.

Sent March 4:

Ban Ki-moon’s vow of United Nations support for Pacific Island States is welcome news. At this point, the juggernaut of climate change cannot be stopped; it may only be slowed — and island economies and cultures are among the very first to feel its consequences. It is grimly ironic that the nations which contribute least to the atmospheric greenhouse effect are the ones most affected by it. Unfortunately, in many industrialized countries the political climate has made reality-based discussions of global warming difficult, and actual policies impossible. For nations protected by geography from climate change’s initial impacts, devaluing scientific expertise in favor of short-term political exigencies is a luxury that the Pacific Island States can ill afford. The committed engagement of the United Nations is essential; the world’s industrialized nations must recognize the climate crisis as a universal threat and take immediate steps to transform their energy economies. But as long as the oil industry maintains its stranglehold on the world’s governments, such action is unlikely. Ban Ki-moon has his work cut out for him.

Warren Senders

…and as of March 11, you can find this letter online at the Solomon Times website.