Losing Paradise: Climate Change Threatens Marshall Islands

Beautiful islands are a paradise. Marshall Islands are known to be one of the best vacation spot in the world. Those peaceful, serene Marshall Islands are not a peaceful place anymore. Climate change has swept away the residents’ livelihood forcing them to relocate. The number of people leaving Marshall has increased and they have become “climate refugees.”

As the glacier melts, sea levels have been rising about 8 inch over the past century which terrorizes the people. Therefore, it poses a threat to the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which is well known for its beautiful coral reef. A few years ago, this place was an ideal tourist destination, however, today the residents live in fear of the rising sea water. They are afraid of the rolling waves that threaten their homes. So far 15 percent of the people from Marshall Islands have relocated to the United States.

 According to IPCC or the “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” the Marshall Islands maybe disappear if the global temperature increases 2 degree Celsius and the sea-level rise more than 50cm (19.68 inches). The world can no longer act ignorant as an excuse for inaction.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Marshallese people need to leave their country. Since the 1950’s the United States has conducted over twenty nuclear tests at the local residential island, Bikini, in the Marshall archipelago. The military authorities and scientists had promised the native residents that they would be able to return home after nuclear tests, however, very few want to move back. Almost every native residents had to leave their homeland because of contamination and damage. For the Marshallese people, climate change and nuclear testing will have similar damaging effects.

However, there is a big barrier that makes people hesitant to take action against climate change. There is a huge group of people who deny global warming. Despite worldwide consensus, many people continue to deny its existence because of political and economic reasons. While people are still debating on climate change and saying that it is not happening, the Antarctic is melting and people are suffering from the climate change in many parts of the world.

 Luckily, there is still time to help. If we participate in this issue actively and increase public awareness, the countries like Marshall Islands will be able to survive. First, we can do our part to reduce our own fossil emissions. A few ideas to be more environmentally conscience are turning the thermostat up in the summer, taking public transportation and eating less meat or beef. Second, we have to tell the world’s leaders any higher than 2 degrees Celsius is too much. We as individuals cannot solve the climate change problem without help from governments. Federal action is critical for making real change on a global scale. Many scientists hope to rid the world of fossil fuels by 2050. They hope to achieve that goal by electing candidates who support cap-and-trade systems for carbon pollution, carbon taxes and energy efficiency subsides. Lastly, we must help Marshallese people keep their culture alive and guarantee their safety as they escape the islands as climate migrants. Industrialized countries have a direct impact on environments like the Marshall Islands and it is their humanitarian responsibility to provide aid for the incoming migrants. We cannot undo the damage that has been inflicted on the Marshall Islands due to global warming but we can support climate refugees in their journey to relocate and survive. This is the type of attitude we need to have to make the world a better place.

The climate change is evidently true. Not only on the Marshall Islands, but in other countries around the world such as the Maldives, Fiji and Bangladesh whose sea levels rise along with their death tolls. Continuing attitudes of denial and indifference will only led to more disasters but now is the time we wake up.

Sejin Moon