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Pacific News Minute: Pacific Reaction to Dire Climate Change Warnings in New UN Report

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As you’ve heard on NPR this week, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued dire warnings of extreme weather, rising sea levels, food shortages and climate migration unless urgent and unprecedented economic measures hold the average temperature rise under 1.5? – a goal many scientists believe is already out of reach. 

Representatives from the Catholic aid charity Caritas New Zealand gathered in Wellington to describe the effects of climate change. Francis Waleliolala, who lives on the Solomon island of Malaita, told RNZ Pacific that, during king tides, two nearby villages became rivers and that the sea had eaten into a local cemetery. Father Martin Everi, said that his people, in Kiribati, were victims of a problem others had caused. They are building sea walls and planting mangroves, efforts that may put off the day the atolls become uninhabitable.

In Australia, deputy prime minister Michael McCormack rejected the report’s call to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2050. He said the government would not change policy just because of what he called “some sort of report.”

On Monday, McCormack told Sky News that coal provided 60 percent of Australia’s electricity, 50,000 jobs, and was also the country’s largest export.

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Aerial view of Tokelau

New Zealand announced a 65 million dollar increase in climate related assistance to its territory of Toklelau – its three atolls lie no more than six feet or so above sea level. New Zealand also announced a new weather station to monitor the climate and warn of bad weather. Until it’s built, Tokeleau will continue to rely on forecasts from its Pacific neighbors.

In Wellington, Caritas New Zealand director Julianne Hickey said that the poorest people in the Pacific are on the front lines. “For us in Oceania,” she said,” the 1.5 degree target is an imperative for survival.”

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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