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Small Island States bear the brunt of climate change

December 3, 2010
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“I’m not talking about what climate change does. It is what it is doing NOW.”

Climate change’s effects are already hitting some places harder than others. Singapore is projected to be affected with rising sea levels and be plagued with higher incidences of mosquito-borne diseases. Not to mention, the weather will be unbearably hot – if it wasn’t already.

The effects of climate change is considered to be detached from policy making – but some countries know better. At a side event at Cancun Messe at COP 16, a panel shared their worst fears, and greatest hopes for food security and help from developed countries. Several members of the press were present.

All over the world, changes in weather patterns are already occurring. In Seychelles, droughts are exceptionally bad this year. At a side event at COP 16 today, their ambassador Ronald Jean Jumeau was  on the panel of the discussion on food security and the impacts of climate change on small island states. He gave a passionate speech about the state of environmental disaster in his home country. Seychelles is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar. It is home to coral reefs and has the oldest granite rocks in the world.

Singapore and Seychelles are both small island states, though no longer classified as developing. They are part of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a coalition which was formed to stand up for one another on similar issues pertaining to the effects of climate change during plenary sessions, in particular, the AWG-LCA meeting on Mitigation.

“When we have problems, we tradiitonally sit by the sea and listen to the waves. We look at the sunset and feel at peace. Nowadays, I go home and find the beaches eroded. The coral reefs and 600-year old granite stone are so precious to us. They are beautiful and they are the first line of defence against climate change.”

The Seychelles representative said that the islands were devastated by a demanding drought that has left only 20 days worth of water available for use by the entire nation. Their country thrives on marine tourism (think white sandy beaches along endless stretches of water) for almost all of their islands – and this aggravates their country’s thirst for freshwater. Tourists who throng the various resorts guzzle water for drinking, bathing, and those crystal clear swimming pools next to the beach, just like in Cancun. Even though the Seychelles islands are surrounded by water, the seawater is useless without desalination plants, which the country representative claims was too costly to run 24 hours a day. They rely on freshwater from precipitation, but this drought was hitting water reserves hard.

“You can’t eat sand. You can’t drink the ocean.”

Seychelles is rationing its water to usage for 1 hour each day, where residents would fill up every container they owned, from water bottles to bathtubs, with the water they needed for the day, and it is said that they only have enough drinking water for 20 days left if the heavens doesn’t open its floodgates and let the rain pour. Ronald Jean Jumeau spoke as if he didn’t expect much from the Cancun talks, and quoted that he was looking to Durban 2011 for COP17 to address these issues.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Filbert Lam permalink
    December 4, 2010 10:10 am

    All though Singapore is also considered a Small Island State, our carbon footprint is a staggering 27.9 tonnes per capita (as of 2008. Source: http://www.siiaonline.org/?q=blog/the-singapore-case-carbon-tax). However, our efforts have largely been not as effective as we hoped. And even if policies and initiatives have been effective, Singaporeans usually respond “actively” to these initiatives and policies for all other reasons except to fight climate change. Take for example, the “Bring Your Own Bag” Day (BYOBD) campaign. Most people either bring their own bags (or avoid visiting the supermarkets) on BYOBD as they do not want to pay 10 cents for every plastic bag that they use and not in the interest of cutting down the usage of plastic bags.

    We are all familiar with the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. In Singapore, many of us practise the 3Rs in our daily lives, whether knowingly or unknowingly. However, we need also to Rethink. We need to rethink our consumption habits and patterns. I’m not talking about rethink whether we should take public transport or the car (because that has been taken care of with the high COE prices and road tax). We should, first of all, rethink whether on a personal level, we are doing enough, or to the best of our ability, to make a change and make a stand in fighting climate change.
    The common Singaporean mindset would be, “I’m just one person in one of the smallest populations in the world, living on one of the smallest countries in the world. What difference can I make?” This is a misconception. If everyone of us makes even a small difference in our lives and change our lifesyle to adapt to the current situation, I believe that it can and will make a huge difference.

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