Sunday, June 7, 2009

UN to study security threat of climate change

With glaciers melting and oceans rising, the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday expressed deep concern at the adverse impact of climate change and urged U.N. bodies to consider the possible security implications for all countries.

The nonbinding resolution, adopted by consensus, was the first ever sponsored by the 12-nation group of Pacific Small Island Developing States whose homelands are threatened by rising sea levels, and the first to raise the possible security threat from global warming.

It calls for a report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon next year «on the possible security implications of climate change,» based on the views of the 192 U.N. member states and regional and international organizations.

For the Pacific island nations, the implications are clear. «The Pacific Ocean in which we have lived for centuries will eventually leave little of our homelands behind if urgent action is not taken,» Ambassador Marlene Moses of Nauru, the world's smallest island nation covering only 21 square kilometers, warned the assembly.

Speaking on behalf of the group, she said, small islands are already grappling with the inundation of coastal areas where the majority of their population live, the submergence of islands, the loss of fresh water supplies, salt water intrusion, flooding, drought and damaged crops.

«In many cases, these impacts will ultimately render Pacific island nations uninhabitable, destroying our unique and ancient cultures,» Moses said. «As the rest of the world continues to debate the security implications of climate change, for our peoples the problem is astoundingly real,» she said. «Communities on drowning islands throughout the Pacific are faced with a looming homelessness crisis due to rising sea levels. For some, the only viable option is to migrate. While many have already relocated, more are expected to follow as more of our islands eventually submerge.

Moses told the assembly before the resolution was adopted that the adverse effects of climate change could lead to the disappearance of many U.N. member states for the first time in the organization's history. «The adoption of the resolution will not only prove that we are seriously concerned about the global environment but more importantly that we are seriously concerned about the survival of whole populations and the existence of their lands, from which they derive their sense of belonging and identity,» she said.

Palau's deputy U.N. ambassador Joan Yang stressed that for the Pacific islands and other countries, climate change is a security threat. «When we are told by scientists to prepare for humanitarian crises, including exodus, in our lifetimes, how can it be different from preparing for a threat like war?,» she asked. «When we face the potential for economic and political disruption on a scale not seen since World War II, we must move to action.

The Pacific island states «are among those nations least responsible» for the harmful greenhouse gases, blamed for global warming, «yet will be among the first to disappear,» Yang said.
She urged the U.N. Security Council to address the security threat posed by climate change and chart the way forward.

Ambassador Phillip Muller of the Marshall Islands said there is «a very small window for urgent international action, perhaps as little as 10 years, to best avoid irreversible and abrupt climate impacts. «The people of the Marshall Islands pray that we shall not reach this point of no return,» he said.