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Nation-state unilateralism will make it harder to tackle global warming and ecological damage

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DEAR EDITOR, the Solomon Islands contribution to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is negligible, but—like other Small Island Developing States- it suffers disproportionately the effects of global warming.

Next week the World Economic Forum (WEF) will be holding its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland when the US President, Donald Trump is expected to attend.

It is highly likely that the WEF will deliver a strong warning on the US President’s go-it-alone approach to tackling climate change, highlighting the growing threat of environmental collapse in its annual assessment of the risks facing the international community.

Larry Elliot, the Economics Editor, of the Guardian newspaper last week wrote about the effects of climate change in the context of the risks to the global economy in 2018 as highlighted in the WEF’s assessment and survey.

This is what he had to say (quote).

“It said (all five environmental risks covered by the survey) – extreme weather events, natural disasters, failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, and human-made natural disasters – had become more prominent.

“This follows a year characterised by high-impact hurricanes, extreme temperatures and the first rise in CO2 emissions for four years. We have been pushing our planet to the brink and the damage is becoming increasingly clear.

“Biodiversity is being lost at mass-extinction rates, agricultural systems are under strain, and pollution of the air and sea has become an increasingly pressing threat to human health.”

“Trump has threatened to withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris agreement under which nations agreed to take steps to limit the increase in global temperature. He has said the commitments made by his predecessor, Barack Obama, would damage the American economy.

“Other states have said they will keep to the pledges made in Paris, an approach supported by the WEF.

“A trend towards nation-state unilateralism may make it more difficult to sustain the long-term, multilateral responses that are required to counter global warming and the degradation of the global environment,” it said.

“The survey said the extreme weather events in 2017 included unusually frequent Atlantic hurricanes, with September the most intense month on record. It was also the most expensive hurricane season.

“It added that when data was finalised, 2017 would be among the three hottest years on record, and the hottest without an El Niño, the Pacific Ocean climate cycle that affects the world’s weather.

“Biodiversity loss was occurring at mass-extinction rates, the WEF said, noting that the populations of vertebrate species declined by an estimated 58% between 1970 and 2012.

“Globally, the primary driver of biodiversity loss is the human destruction of habitats including forests – which are home to approximately 80% of the world’s land-based animals, plants and insects – for farming, mining, infrastructure development and oil and gas production.”

There has been some speculation in the international press that President Trump might change his mind on his earlier stance on withdrawing from the Paris Agreement when he delivers his speech to the WEF delegates in Davos and so we will have to wait and see.

The present and future threats to the Solomon Islands arising from climate change are matters for concern and being considered in the SI National Development Strategy Focus in order to effectively respond to climate change and manage the environment and the risks of natural disasters.

Quoting from the Solomon Islands own forecast on climate change one reads –

“The future of human habitation and agricultural production in Solomon Islands depends on its ability to adapt to and mitigate temperature increase, sea-level rise, warming seas, and overexploitation.

“Temperature increase threatens agriculture. There has been an increase in temperatures between 0.12 and 0.18 degrees Centigrade per decade since the 1950s. This increase threatens agricultural production, including the main exports of copra and palm oil. In addition, the increase in temperatures threatens subsistence agriculture production for the local people, endangering food security.

“Sea-level rise threatens agriculture and settled areas. The sea level has risen an average of 8 mm per year, well above global projections. The rise threatens local communities as the majority of Solomon Islanders live near the coastline at sea level. The higher ground in Solomon Islands is volcanic and mountainous, ill-suited for human habitation and agricultural production. Coastal flooding has increased, with the Western province, the Roviana region, especially at risk due to its population density.

“Warming seas threaten fishing. Coral reefs and the larger surrounding areas are under threat from the rapid increase of acidity levels in sea water. With temperatures and acidification expected to continue increasing, migratory patterns may be altered and local reef populations may die out, negatively impacting the fishing industry and exports.

“Timber overexploitation. The harvesting and logging of timber is past the point of overexploitation. Logging began in the 1930s and has continued at an increasing pace. In 2005, the export of round log reached 1 million cubic metres, four times the sustainable allowable cut limit estimated by the government and outside observers. A national inventory took place in 2006 to assess the timber market. The Inventory predicted a rapid and complete depletion of timber by 2015. A majority of the citizens of Solomon Islands used timber to cook with and heat their homes, an activity that has now been virtually eliminated. The depletion of local forests may alter local watersheds and increase the risk of flooding for local communities. The lack of windbreak provided by forests also exposes cleared land and villages to stronger winds, endangering agriculture and putting settled areas at greater risk in storms.”

Solomon Islands was believed to have been working with the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy to focus on resilience and mitigation to climate change under the Roviana Climate Change Resilience Plan 2013 -2017.

Now we wait to learn if President Trump will decide to back the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Meanwhile the Chinese press has claimed that China is refusing to bury its head in the sand, and has committed to meet its climate obligations as well as to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, designed to fulfill the common ambition of keeping the global average temperature rise less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

China, being the world’s largest emitter, is said have publicly embarked on formulating a climate policy with a main objective of reducing carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020. In the lead-up to the 2015 Paris Conference, the country announced that its emissions would peak by 2030 by ensuring that at least 20 percent of its portfolio of energy would then come from non-fossil fuel sources.


(Source : China.org.cn)

Yours sincerely



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