Sunday, September 28, 2008
Climate change 'sinking Pacific nation'
September 28, 2008, 5:30 pm
An immigrant from a tiny Pacific Ocean nation is appealing to the Australian government to assist in evacuations because she says her homeland is sinking under rising sea levels.
Currently bedridden with pneumonia, Kiribati Australia Association member Wanita Limpus in a statement told the Climate Emergency Week rally outside Queensland's Parliament House how climate change was destroying her home nation.
Ms Limpus said since she left Kiribati in 1976 to marry her Australian husband, she had returned to see clear signs of rising sea levels in 1991, 2004 and 2005.
"In 1991 I was having breakfast in my sister's home one morning when there happened to be a king tide and waves crashed over a retaining wall and swept into the house and we found ourselves up to our ankles in sea water in the kitchen," she said.
"I was shocked at this, but my sisters were laughing ... they were used to it.
"In 2004, when I returned I had to move my grandfather's grave from its resting place, and bury him more inland."
Mrs Limpus called on the Australian government to help Kiribati begin the evacuation process, saying the land would become uninhabitable long before it was submerged.
"Salt water is mixing with the groundwater and contaminating wells. Soon vital food providing plants and trees are going to die.
"Our people are inevitably going to have to abandon their land. They will be scattered, families will be split.
"(We need) to prepare the evacuation in a way which is the least traumatic for both them and the countries that will receive them."
"Kiribati, pronounced Kiribas, is a small nation of just over 100,000 people scattered across 33 coral atolls in the Central Pacific Ocean," she said.
"The coral atolls of which Kiribati consists, are flat, just a few hundred metres wide and no more than a metre above sea level."
She said Kiribati was the place of origin of the Hawaiian skirt and was the scene of the Battle of Tarawa, a major World War II battle between the United States and Japan .
Her husband Leonard Limpus said while Kiribati still had a few decades left, things like education had to be altered to make integration easier.
"But you can't put a timetable on it because things seem to be happening a lot faster than they are being forecasted for," he said.
Climate Emergency Week organiser Paul Benedek said the Kiribati people were just one of many being affected by climate change and more needed to be done than "weak" emissions cut talks.
"We have heard those in positions of power calmly talking of giving up on the Great Barrier Reef ; we see growing evidence of our major river systems dying and permanent drought; and Arctic ice is near its lowest level on record," Mr Benedek said.
"We are rallying to demand a massive shift to renewable energy, to public transport and to sustainability."