10 Sep 2018

Urgency needed to avoid civil unrest from climate pressure in Pacific

11:58 am on 10 September 2018

A climate scientist says the inclusion of climate change as a security issue by Pacific Island leaders is an opportunity to push for more urgent action in the region.

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Photo: 123RF

Professor of Physical Geography at Victoria University, James Renwick, said defence forces all around the world see climate change as a major threat to the stability of society.

Professor Renwick said climate change can undermine resources and the environment which affects the way people live their lives.

He said when people can't depend on the environment things can become unpredictable as seen in Syria and around the Mediterranean coast.

James Renwick said people in the Pacific can be displaced through sea level rise, or salination of ground water supplies, and changes in rainfall and temperature.

"Those people are going to have to go somewhere or they're going to be agitated, there's going to be costs so there's economic damage, all sorts of things can flow from the effects of climate change," professor Renwick said.

So all countries really need to be thinking about it in this way, as a real risk to the rule of law and the stability of society.

Professor Renwick said the Pacific Island nations are bearing the brunt of climate change even though they haven't caused the problem and large emitters such as the United States, Australia and New Zealand need to be part of a global solution.

High tides in Marshall Islands in March 2016 hit a seawall.

High tides in Marshall Islands in March 2016 hit a seawall. Photo: RNZI/Giff Johnson

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