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Sinking Pacific islands

By Matt Thistlethwaite - posted Thursday, 31 July 2014

In May this year I met with 19-year-old Apisaloma Tawati from Kiribati and 27-year-old Seimila Filoma from Tuvalu.

These well-spoken ambassadors were visiting Australia on an important mission - to make Australian politicians understand the urgency of taking real action on climate change.

In Australia and most of the developed world we talk of climate change as a looming threat. But Apisaloma and Seimila's language was different. They spoke of the present danger of global warming.


They outlined how lack of rain and rising sea levels was affecting their local communities and threatened the future of their coral island homes perched precariously in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

For a couple of young people inexperienced in international political advocacy, Apisaloma and Seimila articulated their concerns with clarity and passion.

Lack of rain is affecting water supplies and traditional crops such as coconuts and breadfruit are dying. The rising salt water contaminates freshwater supplies and crops, while warmer sea temperatures bleach coral, threatening fish stocks and a major source of food for the people.

Road infrastructure is regularly becoming flooded and damaged.

To them the issue is as clear as the water that surrounds their atolls, the water that has nourished life in their communities for thousands of years, and that now threatens the future of their people.

It is estimated that a sea level rise of 8–16 inches in the next 100 years could make Kiribati and Tuvalu, which at their highest rise about 6 feet above sea level, uninhabitable.


This week leaders representing 15 Pacific Island nations will travel to Palau in the western Pacific Ocean to participate in the Pacific Islands Forum.

Climate change will feature on the agenda and political leaders will have the opportunity to talk about what their Governments are doing to mitigate the impact of climate change on islands states such as Kiribati and Tuvalu.

Representing the Abbott Government will be Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Brett Mason.

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About the Author

Matt Thistlethwaite is the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and the MHR for Kingsford Smith.

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