A report last week from Bangkok contained distressing news for fans of Current.tv. Or blip.tv, mtv.tv, or any website that depends on the internet country code for Tuvalu, a chain of eight Pacific islands that hosts 12,000 citizens.
The early April meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) renewed discussions begun in Bali last year, over the existential crises posed by rising sea levels. In Tuvalu, the threat is extreme: crops are becoming overly salinated, beaches are vanishing, and in 30 years, the entire nation could become submerged in the Indian Ocean—a wet and salty Pompeii.
Tuvalu has launched appeals to neighboring land masses, hoping for asylum-like entry into their countries should the unthinkable occur. The Australian government has said no to the proposal, while New Zealand is keeping its options open, allowing just 12 Tuvalans annually to use their island as a lifeboat.
This uncertain fate is shared among the 38-member coalition of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which also stand to slip into history without drastic reversals in climate change. Tuvalu, in partnership with the Maldives, has successfully framed the environmental security of peoples in low-lying coastal areas as a human rights issue. One conference attendee from Fiji’s Greenpeace said as much:
To move from their island will not be easy. It will mean loss of their culture, their identity and way of life…. It is time that the link between climate change and human rights be recognised at these talks. The world’s major polluters cannot afford to ignore this growing problem that one day will produce climate change refugees.
The changes in climate that have already affected massive species migrations are poised to take an increasing toll on where and how humans live. Let’s hope website developers aren’t the only ones planning in advance. The problem of “climate change refugees” (not to mention the wars and shortages that lie in our hothouse future) stands only to grow.