Postcards from the front lines of climate change

Tok Pisin • 中文版 • Indonesian

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A map showing Australia relative to the Pacific.

Australia has some 16 Pacific Island neighbours — some with a land mass a millionth our size — who unanimously declare climate change the “single biggest menace” to the area.

To rapidly get a way why: many of these nations are remoted and weak, unfold throughout tons of of atolls, usually lower than a metre above sea stage, and residential to some of the most culturally wealthy, biodiverse ecosystems. For context, the NSW metropolis of Lismore is as much as 50 occasions the size of some of them.

A map showing Australia relative to Pacific Island nations with three postcards from the region on top.

For a long time they have been pleading for motion — as throughout the Pacific, climate change will not be a hypothetical future occasion, it is already taking place, with relocations and legal measures to guard sovereignty already underway.

A map showing Australia relative to the Pacific.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns the window for motion is quickly closing — here is a snapshot of what that appears like on the front lines, and what people who reside there have been making an attempt to inform us.*

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A postcard image of a man standing on an atoll looking out at the see in French Polynesia.

Local Mayor John Drollet in 2021: “We don’t need to be the first French eco refugees, we wish our kids to maintain on dwelling on the land of their ancestors.” 

A postcard of a sunset image in Kiribati with a man walking through flood waters.

Climate Action Network undertaking supervisor Ralph Spring in 2022: “The mentality right here is we all know it’s going to occur eventually — we’ll lose this place to climate change.” 

A postcard showing an aerial shot of the Cook Islands.

Foreign Affairs Officer Josh Mitchell in 2018: “If we lose this land does that imply we lose the maritime jurisdiction generated from it? That’s the query we’re taking a look at.”

A postcard from Niue showing an aerial shot of the eye of a cyclone.

Former premier Toke Talagi in 2008: “We discuss about climate change as if it is a idea, taking place someplace else. Climate change has already impacted our individuals — now.”

A postcard from Samoa showing a mother and her kids sitting in the rubble where a house once stood.

Former prime minister Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi in 2018: “We all know the downside, the options — all that’s left can be some braveness to inform individuals there may be certainty of catastrophe.”

A postcard from Tonga showing an aerial view of a volcanic island.

Civil Society chief Siotame Drew Havea in 2022: “[Sea level rises] usually are not like cyclones the place you lose half a home … with this, you lose every little thing.”

A postcard showing the foreign minister of Tuvalu giving a press conference in the water.

Foreign Minister Simon Kofe in 2021: “We’re imagining a worst-case state of affairs the place we’re pressured to relocate — we’re taking a look at avenues to retain recognition as a state below worldwide regulation.” [The area pictured was once dry land].

A postcard showing destruction after a cyclone in Fiji.

Eight-year-old pupil Aiyanna Nacewa in 2021: “When the cyclone hit, I used to be scared as a result of I believed lightning may hit our home and make a gap via the roof.”

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A postcard showing flooded land in the Marshall Islands.

Former international minister Tony de Brum in 2014: “There could also be much more issues later making an attempt to repair what injury is finished now if we don’t make the corrections obligatory.”

A postcard looking out at the see from Nauru with graffiti on a barrier by the sea.

NIWA hazard analyst Shaun Williams in 2022: “A big portion of the inhabitants want to be inside inundation zones in the subsequent few a long time, primarily based on modelling of sea stage rise eventualities ranging from 0.1 to 2 metres.”

A postcard with Tanya McGarry on it from Vanuatu.

Nine-year-old native Tanya Watsivi McGarry in 2021: “We have been all squashed in the rest room. We may hear glass shattering, the water got here up, I used to be very scared. I do not need to develop up in a world the place there’s extra climate change.”

A postcard showing high speed winds blowing a palm tree in New Caledonia.

Congress President Louis Mapou in 2021: “From time immemorial, our dwelling atmosphere in the Pacific is linked to the ocean, our islands and our biodiversity.”

A postcard showing the submerged island of Nuatambu in Solomon Islands.

Sixteen-year-old Shannon Sogavare in 2021: “Sad factor is I’ll by no means get to see the entire island the place my father [prime minister] grew up — the center half is now totally lined leaving two islands.” 

A postcard showing the aerial view of the eye of a typhoon from Micronesia.

President David Panuelo in 2021: “Insecurity means mass migration, mind drain … most strongly proven via enrolment charges [as low as 14 students in some schools].”

A postcard submerged in water showing two kids standing on the beach looking out at the sea in Papua New Guinea.

Photographer Darren James in 2018: “People have lived there for greater than 200 years. Climate change and different points have pressured them to think about relocation, and lots of have executed so.”

A postcard submerged by water showing an aerial view of Palau.

President Surangel Whipps Jr in 2022: “We shouldn’t be paralysed by the magnitude of the downside. It’s unavoidable. But that’s the actuality we reside in as island states.”

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Piles of postcards from across the Pacific all sitting on top of one another.

Unlike neighbouring continental giants, Pacific Island international locations are remoted and surrounded by huge ocean, without the geographical, environmental, or monetary safety a big, rich land mass supplies.

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Many fear they’re one volcanic eruption, one cyclone, or a minor sea stage rise away from complete uninhabitability.

The penalties of which aren’t only the loss of sovereignty and refugee crises, however the loss of one of the most culturally various, vibrant and necessary areas of the world — dwelling to tons of of unique languages, indigenous cultures, and endemic wildlife.

For Pacific Island nations, climate change will not be a debatable future concern open to interpretation, however a gift actuality that boils down to at least one basic query: can we afford to entertain the chance that climate change will not be an pressing existential menace, and be flawed?

On the front lines, the reply is straightforward: No.

Also accessible in: Tok Pisin, Chinese & Indonesian

Credits

  • Research, Reporting & Production: Steven Viney & Edwina Seselja
  • Graphics, Layout & Design: Jarrod Fankhauser
  • Photography: Darren James (PNG), AM Kanngieser (Nauru), Brant Cumming (Fiji),  Maxar Technologies (Tonga), the University of Queensland (Solomon Islands), AFP, Reuters, and NASA
  • Additional Research, Reporting & Editing: Tahlea Aualiitia, Jordan Fennell, Stephen Dziedzic, Prianka Srinivasan & Evan Wasuka
  • Additional Facts & Information Updatermation: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), United Nations, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS), Refugees International, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI).
  • Translations: Caroline Tiriman (Tok Pisin), Kai Feng (Mandarin) & Farid Ibrahim (Indonesian)
  • Project Lead & Editor: Steven Viney

*Editor’s Note: The data gathered for this story encompasses 20 years of ABC reporting on climate change in the Pacific introduced towards the latest research and statements from main analysis our bodies. Some interviews required the help of translators and interpreters, and have been edited and paraphrased for readability and context.

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