The island of Tarawa, Kiribati, South Pacific
All of the global warming hype has created unprecedented levels of fear among people in small island countries like Tarawa and Kiribati. They are now calling for a ‘climate change insurance fund’ to protect their people from ‘going extinct’ as yet another fear-based UN report warns that a sea level rise will make whole nations uninhabitable.
The study of climate change impacts in the Caribbean warned that sea levels could rise by up to 6.5ft (2m) by the end of the 21st Century if global warming continues. There is also an increased risk of hurricanes and storm surges.
According to the Oxford University research this would mean that 260,000 people are displaced from the islands, one million would be at risk of flooding and billions of dollars would be lost every year from the tourism industry alone.
As 194 nations meet in Cancun, Mexico for the latest round of UN talks on global warming, small island states are calling for tougher measures to stop climate change.
Antonio Lima, Vice Chairman of the Association of Small Island States (Aosis), said whole nations will be washed away by sea level rise.
He said the people of Kiribati, Tuvalu, most of the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands and the Maldives, that are just a few metres above sea level now, could be lost as a race.
“We are going to be the first human species endangered in the 21st century. We are going to be in danger of going extinct,” he said.
“We do not want to be the forgotten of the 21st century. We do not want to be sacrificed. We want to survive and to survive we need solidarity from those who can do something about the weather.”
As well as cuts in emissions to stop global warming, the small island states are calling for a ‘global insurance fund’ to be set up that would help vulnerable nations cope with the effects of climate change.
Poor nations at risk of sea level rise would pay an annual premium, but a large chunk of the money would come from climate change aid provided by rich nations. Like a normal insurance fund, the money would be invested privately so that there are hundreds of billions of pounds available in the event of a crisis.
The fund would pay out according to damage, as it is impossible to prove weather is directly caused by climate change. However the insurance would only be available to nations that are affected by global warming and do not have the capacity to protect themselves. Also they would have to first take reasonable preventative measures, such as building coastal defences, so that the money is only used for extreme events.
The insurance pay-outs could help whole nations pay for a new ‘homeland’ if sea level rise means it becomes impossible to live on their own island. It could also be used to repair airports, roads and hotels.
Aosis are calling for the insurance fund to be part of any global deal on climate change.
The group of more than 40 nations argue it would not only protect vulnerable states but motivate them to put in place preventative measures.
Ultimately, they argue, the aid money used to set up the fund and pay the insurance premiums would be far less than paying for the clean up costs if countries are left unprotected.
Already there has been a meeting about how the insurance fund would work at Oxford University earlier this year attended by small island states, academics and representatives from the insurance industry.
UK officials said it was too early to make an insurance fund part of a global agreement on climate change. But they agreed that the UN should order an investigation into the issue so that it can be included in a deal if it is feasible.
Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth’s International Climate Campaigner, said rich countries have a responsibility to protect the poor from the impacts of climate change.
“As they have done the most to cause climate change, rich countries, including the UK, must also provide more money for developing countries to adapt to the impacts – including sea-level rise – which will have a devastating impact on communities worldwide,” he said.
“It might be tempting to focus on the loss of tourist resorts and beaches – but behind that will be an ocean of shattered livelihoods, homes and families.”
‘Modelling the Transformational Impacts and Costs of Sea Level Rise in the Caribbean’ focuses on 15 islands including holiday favourites St Kitts, Antigua, the Bahalmas and Barbados.
Dr Murray Simpson, Senior Research Associate, Oxford University Centre for the Environment, who led the study, said 300 tourist resorts will be devastated.
He said this would not only drive hundreds of thousands of people from their homes but deprive them of their livelihoods.
He said that just a metre is sea level rise will cost at least £188 ($300) billion by 2100 if sea level rises by 6.5ft (2m) with tens of billions spent every year repairing roads, hotels and airports. Even sea level rise of 3ft will cost up to £3 billion per annum by 2050, rising to £8 billion by 2100.
“This highlights the extreme vulnerability of small islands states and the need for urgent action,” he said.
Chris Huhne, Climate Change and Energy Secretary, said a global insurance fund should be carefully studied as a way of providing funds.
“The insurance industry already ‘gets’ climate change. It poses a unique risk to our environment and our economies and most businesses realise that inaction is not an option,” he said.
“During this fortnight of climate negotiations, we aim to make progress across a range of issues to get us closer to a legally binding treaty and ambitious emissions cuts.”