Climate change threatens first peoples, body and soul

Even before the creeping global waterline covers low-lying atolls, they will likely be rendered inhabitable by a tropical storm
Even before the creeping global waterline covers low-lying atolls, they will likely be rendered inhabitable by a tropical storm engorged by rising seas, or an infiltration of seawater into the fresh water supply

When global warming swallows up the postage stamp island of Warraber, forcing its 300 residents to find a new home, "it will not just be the loss of our land, but also a piece of us that is washed away," says Kabay Tamu.

Tamu, 28, is likely to see that traumatic transition during his lifetime, according to a landmark UN report on oceans and Earth's frozen regions, released this week.

Even before the creeping global waterline covers this low-lying atoll between Australia and Papua New Guinea, it will probably be rendered inhabitable by a engorged by rising seas, or salt-water infiltration.

"We see first-hand the in , coastal erosion," Tamu told AFP phone from New York, where he had gone to bear witness as world leaders gathered in a climate summit.

"We have a deep connection—culturally, spiritually—with the land that will be lost."

Confronted with this grim future, everyone on Warraber—and hundreds of similarly situated tropical islands worldwide—is confronted with a choice.

But for Tamu and his family, "leaving is not an option," he said emphatically, noting that his people had lived on this and neighbouring islands for thousands of years. "To be taken away is to lose our deep spiritual connection to the land. This is our home."

The problem of populations uprooted by global warming is generally framed in terms of logistics, geopolitics and economics: who will accomodate them and who will bear the cost?

But there is another dimension that remains largely neglected, said Bina Desai, head of policy and research at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in Geneva.

"We depend on the sea ice in the same way that the marine mammals depend on it", said Dalee Sambo Dorough from the Inu
"We depend on the sea ice in the same way that the marine mammals depend on it", said Dalee Sambo Dorough from the Inuit Circumpolar Council in Canada

Cultural and spiritual home

"With sea level rise, we have to recognise that there is no return," she told AFP. "It is a resettlement that is not only physical, but cultural and spiritual as well."

For some Pacific islanders, she noted, the thought of leaving without the remains of their ancestors is intolerable.

When people's sense of self is interwoven with the soil and sand, the unique trees and birds of their island homelands, "how can they move without disrupting the identity of their culture?", she asked.

The problem is not unique to island cultures.

"The Saami people belong to Sapmi, and Sapmi belongs to the Saami," said Jannie Staffansson, a member of the Saami Council in Sweden, referring to the cultural region in northern Scandinavia historically inhabited by her people.

Climate change is already devastating the Saami homelands, where is thinning or melting, and the reindeer upon which so many livelihoods depend are in trouble.

"It is heartbreaking to watch the animals struggle," she told AFP by email. "And it is going to get worse because of other people's unwillingness to change."

"If we lose the reindeer, we lose a huge part of our culture."

On the other side of the Arctic Ocean, things are not much better in Alaska and Canada.

"The Inuit communities want to maintain their way of life," said Dalee Sambo Dorough from the Inuit Circumpolar Council in Canada, which represents some 160,000 indigenous people.

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) report on oceans and the cryosphere warns of threats to the "cultural
The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) report on oceans and the cryosphere warns of threats to the "cultural identity of Arctic inhabitants," especially indigenous peoples

'Our people are strong'

"We depend on the sea ice in the same way that the marine mammals depend on it," she said via Skype. "Hunting is still vital to our culture."

And if things get so difficult that the only option left is to relocate?

"Out of the question—the Arctic is our homeland," she said.

Yes, she acknowledged, villages already falling into the sea due to crumbling permafrost and storm surges need to be moved.

"But I know that our people are very strong," she said. "We've managed to survive the Arctic by adapting, so we have that capacity."

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) report on oceans and the cryosphere warns of threats to the "cultural identity of Arctic inhabitants," especially indigenous peoples, who number approximately four million.

But these are not the only cultures menaced by and rising seas, noted Anders Levermann, a professor at the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research in Germany and a top expert on Antarctica.

"Hong Kong is currently a beacon of democracy in China, New Orleans is a bastion of culture, and New York too," he told AFP.

"Hamburg, Calcutta and Shanghai—we are going to lose them all to sea level rise if we do not stop emitting carbon into the atmosphere."


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Sep 27, 2019
The sky is falling.

Sep 28, 2019
In addition to stopping C emission, we need to curtail agriculture, reduce cement production, stop erosion, stop mining, save water, abandon plastic, stop leather production, stop massive fish industry, reduce ships and airplanes, stop beef and meat production, reduce human population, be vegetarian, and many more things...

Sep 28, 2019
yep, or we could look at the data:
Waraber is pretty close to Weipa, and not to far (as such) from Cairns.
Cairns sea level rising trend = 1.83mm/yr
https://tidesandc...=680-041
Weipa is a bit more at 3.49mm/yr, with a strong downward trend since 2010
https://tidesandc...=680-021

don't really think these people have too much to worry about in the next 100yrs or so. Perhaps the article should start with If, instead of When.

Sep 28, 2019
Quite apart from the increased danger from periodic storms/surges per se, increased infiltration of salt water into fresh water table/aquifers can become serious with even a small but steady rise in mean sea levels around an island/coastal system. It's a many-pronged problem in many-context situations, no matter where you live, whether in the mountains of the coast or the inland, because increased unseasonality/severity of droughts, wildfire, storms, floods, hail, frosts, diseases/pests, infrastructure/agriculture losses affect everybody as the consequences filter through to the whole community eventually. Intelligent humans would realise this and act accordingly; while un-intelligent humans make themselves either irrelevant or actually become part of the problem. This is the time for humans to be/do their best asap. Good luck to us all. :)

Sep 28, 2019
lol @ all of you.

Assuming the long term climate turns Holocene Thermal Maximum (+2 C, for 4000 years), we're human, we'll adapt.

if you're worried, plant trees, paint all artificial sky facing surfaces a reflective colour and tell your idiot rulers and social elites to stop flying chartered and private jets.

Sep 30, 2019
We know that global sea level was 4 to 6 meters higher at the peak of the prior interglacial period 125,000 years ago.

https://www.giss....nitz_09/

We also know sea level was 120 meters lower at the peak of the most recent glacial period 20,000 years ago and that the earth has cycled through several glacial/interglacial periods over the last 800,000 years.

https://www.clima...arge.png

It should be no surprise that there may be more sea level rise in the future regardless of whether you believe CO2 emissions are the major cause of recent warming. It happens so slowly that adaptation is a far more viable strategy than any scheme dreamed up by environmentalists.

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