Tuesday, 18 November 2008

First Climate Change Refugees

According to an article on Treehugger, the first climate change refugees have begun to evacuate from the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea. The islanders have battled for more than two decades against the rising ocean, building sea walls and planting mangroves. However, storm surges and high tides continue to wash away homes, destroy vegetable gardens, and contaminate fresh water supplies. Three years ago the Papua New Guinean government authorised the evacuation of the islanders to nearby Bougainville, 10 families at a time. But the evacuation has not been able to start earlier because of a lack of funds - the evacuation will take six years and cost millions of dollars, which the islanders have to raise themselves.

Waters around the atoll have risen 10 centimetres in the past 20 years. This might not sound significant, but the total land area is only 0.6 square kilometres and maximum elevation is only 1.2 metres above sea level. It has been estimated that the Carteret Islands could be largely submerged and entirely uninhabitableby 2015. About a third of the 2,000 Carterets Islanders have apparently refused to be relocated, but in early 2009 the first 40 families will begin the exodus. A group called Tulele Peisa ("riding the waves on our own") has been founded by Carteret Island resident Ursula Rakova to drive the fundraising effort.

Take a look at the videos and photos about the plight of the islanders by independent film maker Pip Starr.

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