19 Oct 2009

Pacific researcher says countries affected by climate change should seek relocation assistance

3:09 pm on 19 October 2009

Many Pacific islands, in danger of being obliterated by rising sea levels, should seek relocation aid at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen.

That's the view of Professor Patrick Nunn, a climate change researcher at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, who says by 2100 many islands in the Pacific will be uninhabitable.

Mr Nunn is chairing the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable meeting in the Marshall Islands capital, Majuro, this week where 14 Pacific countries and territories are devising their strategy for the December conference.

He says new scientific projections show the pace of sea level change is faster than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected in its report from two years ago and will reach more than a metre by the end of the century.

He says the biggest challenge is getting policy makers to understand the need for a profound change in the way Pacific people live.

He says relocation is one of the most difficult things to talk about and to convince people that the home they've lived in for centuries is no longer a viable option.

Mitigation and adaptation projects are being proposed for low-lying areas to withstand sea level rise, but Mr Nunn says there are no real options in Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and other atolls, other than to move people.