Adaptation, mitigation and relocation – only Pacific choices, says academic

Pacific climate change challenges … tough choices. Image: PMC File

By Rahul Bhattarai

A leading academic on peace research issues has called for increased policy making efforts to face up to the challenges of Pacific “relocation” at a weekend conference of global climate and conflict researchers.

“A major conflict-creating component of climate change in the Pacific is the forced reallocation of people,” said Professor Kevin Clements, founding director of Otago University’s National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPACS) and also secretary-general of the Tokyo-based Toda Peace Institute.

“Pacific nations only have three choices – adaptation, mitigation and relocation,” he said.

READ MORE: Climate change and security big focus for Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru

Climate change scholars from around the world gathered at the University of Otago’s Auckland Centre over the weekend to discuss interrelationships between climate change and conflict.

Pacific Island nations are in the front line of global climate change crises, raising sea level and “drowning” lands are forcing thousands of islanders to relocate far away from their homelands and atolls.


This forced reallocation created a fertile ground for conflict in the other Pacific nations, Professor Clements said.

Existential challenge
Failure to make the needed changes in time would impose an “inevitable existential challenge to us all”.

Failure to adapt or mitigate the negative effects of climate change would ultimately result in forced relocations, “forcing people from your own land unto other people’s land and so that’s really beginning to be a major conflict creator in Fiji.”

“Climate change is a major existential challenge for everybody,” Professor Clements said.

Policy makers still had no solid plan to deal with conflict created by climate change.

Dealing with the issues of climate change and conflict was one of the questions which were difficult to answer.

“How do states and peoples create spaces of inevitable migration of people of these countries,” asked Professor Clements.

“Every Pacific nation has been challenged by a combination of elevated sea level and king tides.”

Significant challenge
Having these two combinations posed a significant challenge to the local environment.

“Arable land diminishes, and water quality diminishes as it becomes more saline, and with global warming is also challenging and declining fish resources,” he said.

“Pacific Island countries need to ask themselves, what do they need to adapt these new challenges How can they mitigate their effects and, if they can’t do that, where will they go?” Professor Clements said.

Dr Bob Lloyd, a climate change consultant for Pacific countries, said it was “extremely difficult” to make the public aware of the gravity of climate change.

This was because “people don’t listen” and people complained that there was a disconnect between the scientists and prejudiced knowledge that local communities had.

“When you talk to communities about the problem and give them the solutions and they don’t want to listen because solutions involve considerable social and economic deprivation,” he said.

One way climate change could be minimised was through reduced use of short and long-distance transportation as the Pacific used an enormous amount of air transport for commuting, he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed during her United Nations diplomacy mission last week that the government was looking into tweaking the recently announced increase of refugees quota from 1500 from 1000 by 2020 to focus on climate refugees, reports Newshub.

Rahul Bhattarai is a Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student journalist who is a reporter on the Pacific Media Centre’s Pacific Media Watch freedom project.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Elisabeth Holland: Pacific climate change persistence – we’re all in the same canoe

The University of the South Pacific’s environmental centre spearheading climate change research believes in working together for shared solutions, says Professor Elisabeth Holland.  Video: Pacific Media Centre’s Bearing Witness project

INTERVIEW: Lars Ursin of 2°C talks to Elisabeth Holland

The Pacific Islands are already struggling with the consequences of climate change. But they are not giving in. Instead, they have become a force to be reckoned with in international climate diplomacy. How did that happen?

2°C: How are the Pacific Islands experiencing the effects of global warming today?

Elisabeth Holland: Tropical cyclone Winston’s 40-metre waves, that is one thing. The devastating peak winds of both tropical cyclones Pam and Winston, and the destructive storm surges they brought. The fact that recovery after Winston amounted to 30 percent of Fiji’s GDP. Also in Fiji, 676 of around 1800 villages have already said they need to move. Not just from storm surges, but from repeated inundation due to rising sea level or changing storm patterns. Or coastal erosion generated by storm surges and rising sea levels.

In Fiji, we now recommend that all newly married couples move to higher ground. This is because it is tradition to build new housing for newlyweds to give the communities a head start on the inevitable transition. The transitions needs to happen in a methodical, well-organised way with community buy-in.

What areas of the Pacific Islands are most vulnerable to further climate change?


That would be Tuvalu, Kiribati, The Republic of the Marshall Islands and Tokelau. What they have in common, is a maximum elevation of 3 metres. They are along with the Maldives part of what is called the Coalition of Low Lying Atoll Nations on Climate Change.

Days after Cyclone Winston made landfall on Fiji’s largest island Viti Levu in February 2016, this was what was left of the Rakiraki Market. It used to house more than 200 vendors, but was devastated by the cyclone’s record-breaking winds. Pacific Islanders fear global warming will yield even more frequent and devastating storms in the future. Image: Anna Parinicbnd/UN Women

What is the outlook for the people living on these islands?

The new government of New Zealand is considering setting new immigration policy for their Pacific Island neighbours. Fiji is the only country which has said it would receive climate displaced refugees from the Pacific. Three countries, The Federated States of Micronesia, The Marshall Islands and Palau are part of the Compact of Free Association with the United States and eligible for US passports giving them the right to live, work and study in the USA. Migration, already underway, is to Hawai’i where the provision of some basic services can discriminate against people from these areas.

What practical measures are taken to prevent escalating damage?

There are several issues. Most important is what communities need today to be vibrant and healthy: Fresh water. So, for example, we have provided water tanks and reticulated water systems for more than 12.000 people, funded by the EU. Many of the Pacific Island countries have just begun to access the Green Climate Fund. Tuvalu residents refuse to leave, they say they will adapt. Their funds will be focused on coastal stabilisation, such as sea walls. Marshall Islands are considering which islands to sacrifice to protect the remaining islands. Tokelau has just gotten green climate funding. They are making similar decisions.

‘Migration with dignity’
And Kiribati, under president Anote Tong, a vocal climate spokesperson, has advocated “migration with dignity”. He is focused on ensuring that his population is as well-educated as possible, while at same time taking adaptative measures. Tokelau, by the way, claim to be first 100% renewable energy country, under a project funded by New Zealand.

At the Paris negotiations, you were ringside when the Pacific Islands announced an the High Ambition Coalition with the US and EU, that eventually paved the way for the Paris Agreement. Can you explain what happened?

First, when the High Ambition Coaltion was made public on Tuesday of the second week of negotiations, it was actually forged – in secrecy – during the Cartagena-dialogue earlier in the year. That strategy came about as a result of having learned the lessons of the failed Copenhagen negotiations when no developing country partners were part of the coalition.

That all changed in Paris. First of all, we were better prepared. We had worked with the French Embassy in preparing for the Paris COP. We had worked with the Fijian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Pacific leaders to draft the Suva declaration on Climate Change. The Pacific leaders drafted more than 10 declarations in the lead up to Paris. And still, we were plagued with self-doubt. I remember I met the Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor, on the airport on the way to Paris. She said: “I am afraid we haven’t done our strategic homework”. My reply was “I hope you are wrong”. And in the end, it took a lot of patience and persistence, and the determination of Pacific leaders.

In the Paris COP, I was a delegate for the Solomon Islands. My job was to make sure they had the best science available. So on Monday of the second week, during the high-level negotiations, I sat all night doing calculations for 1.5°C. And the results were upsetting, because it showed that we had less than 10 years before the 1.5 C goal was unattainable. Our press conference on the 1.5°C target was held at the same time as the Minister Tony deBrum’s announcement of the High Ambition Coalition.

However, in addition to representing the Solomon Islands, I was also informing the rest of the Pacific delegations. Also, a lot of my former students were now delegates – 20 in total – both for the Solomon Islands, but also with various other states. In addition, twice a year, I am invited by the secretariat of the ACP – a group of 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific states – to present the science to the ACP ambassadors in Brussels.

So, when I was approached by Pendo Maro, the climate coordinator for the EU ACP secretariat, we marched across the Paris campus, I knew we had 79 countries in my pocket. By the end of Wednesday, 100 countries had signed onto the High Ambition Coation.

Imagine: After all the drafting had been done in Paris, Tony deBrum walked into the room, flanked by the EU and US lead climate negotiators, and they were given a standing ovation. That is the level of support they enjoyed. Because each of the Pacific countries had done their best in pulling in their respective coalitions. And I had no idea what I was doing at the time. I Just knew that when I was invited by the ACP to present the science, I had to do the best I could to deliver the message as clearly as I could.

This time around, all were committed to stand together. There were no breakaways.
Generally, in diplomatic negotiations like this, big countries like China or India will try to divide one Pacific Island off. But this time around, all were committed to stand together, to stand with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). There were no breakaways. We had the leadership of Fiji in the Subsidiary Body for Implementation. Three vocal spokespersons in addition. Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga of Tuvalu. Minister deBrum of the Marshall Islands. President Anote Tong of Kiribati. Because they were most vulnerable countries, the rest of the Pacific let them carry the torch and word out to the rest of the world. But every other Pacific country was behind them, doing their negotiations, backing the high points.

What role have the nations of the South Pacific played since?

In Morocco, Fiji was given the COP23 presidency, and there have been a number of accomplishments under that presidency. One is the Indigenous Peoples’ Platform. A second one was the Gender Action Plan. And, finally, the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance. But in addition to all of this, oceans are now being included in the climate negotiations.

What do you mean by that?

If you look in the text of the Paris Agreement, the word “oceans” is named only once. And yet, we all know how important oceans are in the global climate system. Therefore, we have worked to ensure that there is an Ocean Pathway, to make sure the ocean is featured more prominently in the negotiations to come. Diplomacy is never fast, but because Fiji was also president of the UN in 2017, and we had the UN Oceans Conference in 2017, this was a unique opportunity.

This is of course important to the island states of the South Pacific, whose very livelihood depends on the ocean. But it is also a point of confluence with Norway’s positions. Norway has oceans and climate as a priority as well.

And finally, the COP presidency will be handed over to Poland at COP24 in Katowice. However, Poland has asked Fiji to play a role going forwards, to help see the Talanoa facilitative dialogue through.

Speaking of which: Can you briefly explain the Talanoa dialogue and what it is meant to achieve?

There is a great description of it at the COP23 website. But essentially it is this: When people in a Fijian community want to come to a resolution, they convene a meeting. That meeting is called a Talanoa. Everybody comes as equal partners, respected, and in anticipation of being heard. It is done in a circle, generally kava is served to honour everybody. All participants’ views and perspectives are put on the table. And together, participants weave the cloth of the way forward.

This is an idealised description, of course. But it comes from the principle that we are all in the same canoe. And it is the Talanoa that will lay the foundation for the Paris rulebook, and the process called the global stock take. That is a key part in the five-year review process: Taking stock of emissions and comparing them to the temperature targets. And then, based on that, deciding on commitments and the way forward.

But can you actually produce results through that type of process?

Remember, Fiji is a country of less than 850,000 people. And yet, it is by way of the principles of participating in Talanoa that they achieved their role as both president of the UN and COP-president at the same time. So, does that mean that they have a better long term strategic focus?

In the year before, in 2016, Fiji also won an Olympic gold for rugby. Rugby is a strategic game. But so is Pacific diplomacy. Because it always puts the collective first. It is a way of thinking – not about one, but about all.

Is it also about shaking up the rules of the diplomacy game, to allow countries to approach the negotiations in new ways?

The Pacific Islands rank among the very top of disaster prone countries. But they also rank with the highest happiness indices.

Absolutely. Because they know they can trust one another. There is an interesting contrast: The Pacific Islands rank among the very top of disaster prone countries, because of tropical cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis. But they also rank with the highest happiness indices. And it is not because we are rich. And definitely not because we see ourselves as victims.

Going forward from Paris, what are the greatest obstacles facing the negotiations?

The unravelling of the commitment to high ambition. That is the biggest obstacle.

How can that be overcome?

By leading by example. Whether it is us as individuals, companies, cities or nations, the principle to begin with is leading by example. When the Copenhagen negotiations fell apart, Tony deBrum walked out, and he was wearing a flowered shirt. So the press could immediately identify him as being a Pacific Islander. A reporter asked him: “Minister deBrum, are you here to save your island?” to which he responded: “No, I’m here to save the world”.

That is the thinking we need. That we as small Pacific islands can become champions, not just for ourselves, but for the planet. And that we can achieve that through leading by example. And this is also why we through generations have set aside marine protected areas. It is part of our tradition. We are truly ocean stewards.

What role has scientists such as yourself played in the actual climate negotiations up until now?

Science without strategy, without key countries committed to it, and without good legal thinking, gets you nowhere. No matter how compelling.

The science come into the negotiations in in a couple of different ways. One is through the IPCC. That is a completely separate process, and not formally connected to UNFCCC. But the UNFCCC was formulated to include science perspectives. And it does so through the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice, or SBSTA.

But science without strategy, without key countries committed to it, and without good legal thinking, gets you nowhere. No matter how compelling. That part is hard for scientists to swallow. Because diplomatic negotiations are more about relationships than they are about science.

Leading up to Paris, we had something called the Structured Expert Dialogue, and the 2013-2015 Review. The 2013-2015 Review was a compelling report. That was where they asked the scientific community to take a look at the IPCC and all the available evidence to provide guidance on things like long term temperature goals. Like 1.5°C or 2°C warming. That we did, and in the intersessional between Lima and Paris, we got 1.5°C into the formal text of the Research and Systematic Observation report. And that then became the platform by which we could push through the Structured Expert Dialogue (SED) and into the Paris Agreement. You can’t just ask for goals like that in a plenary session during negotiations, you need to work it into the other framework first.

However, the Saudis – and others – blocked the SED 2013-2015 Review report. By the end of the first week, we had no formal consensus that could have informed the Paris negotiations. But we had to close the two subsidiary bodies, SBSTA and SBI – the Subsidiary body for Implementation – to go to the second week, the high-level negotiations.

And it was not until Saturday night that first week that Amena Yauvoli, Fiji, gavelled the Structured Expert Dialogue. With that gavelling, there was a formal legal obligation for science to inform the negotiations. The text of the Paris agreement calls for for a global stocktake to be informed by “the best available science”.

So in the end science prevailed, but only because of good diplomacy and skilful negotiations. And that is something a lot of scientists find difficult to come to terms with. Which is understandable. After all, many of us were attracted to science to begin with because we are attracted to a world defined by black and white rather than grey. However, diplomacy is an exploration of the grey.

How can climate scientists contribute constructively in shaping climate policy in the future?

First, ensure the integrity of science and scientific processes. Second, participate fully in the IPCC processes. Third, make sure that the science can be “translated” and communicated so others can use it for evidence-based decision making.

And finally, understand that the science-policy interface requires time. And is challenging. And requires a lot of dialogue. That may sometimes be frustrating to scientists.

University of the South Pacific’s Professor Elisabeth Holland. Image: 2°C

Name: Elisabeth Holland
Position: Professor, University of the South Pacific, Fiji
Why: Holland is a renowned climate scientist. She has been a central figure in the international climate negotiations and has been a visiting scholar at the Bjerknes Center for Climate Research this year.

This article has been republished from the Norwegian ezine 2°C with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Fiji’s first climate change village forced to move from sea to ‘promised land’

Blessen Tom’s feature drone video of Vunidogoloa.

By Hele Ikimotu with visuals by Blessen Tom

Vunidogoloa was the first village in Fiji to be relocated – barely three years ago – due to sea level rise.

The village was in the Cakaudrove province and had backyard views of beautiful Natewa Bay on Vanua Levu Island.

The relaxing life for these villagers was however dampened by the impact of sea level rise.

Flooding was common for the villagers and so they needed to be relocated.

Their new village is 2 kilometres inland and was renamed by the villagers as Kenani (“Promised Land”).


The whole village of Vunidogoloa (pop. 130) moved to their new settlement in January 2014 and now have solar lighting.

We stopped by the old “ghost” village to see where the villagers once lived and also took some photos of where they are now settled.

1. Vunidogoloa’s “front door” to Natewa Bay. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

2. Vunidogoloa … now a ghost village. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

3. Vunidogoloa … an abandoned home. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

4. Vunidogoloa … overgrown. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

5. “Slow” … the “promised land” village coming up. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

6. Kenani … the new village. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

7. Kenani Village. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

8. The aid project kudos board. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

9. Hillside Kenani.

10. More Kenani houses. Image: Blessen Tom/Bearing Witness

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PMC’s Bearing Witness project reporters win Dart trauma award

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: PMC’s Bearing Witness project reporters win Dart trauma award

The Bearing Witness video and the prizewinning multimedia package.

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The Pacific Media Centre’s Bearing Witness climate change project has won the Dart Asia-Pacific Prize for Journalism and Trauma at the annual Ossie Awards in Student Journalism presented at the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA) annual conference at Newcastle University last night.

PMC journalists Julie Cleaver and Kendall Hutt received the award for a multimedia feature on the Fijian village of Tukuraki, which was hit by a deadly landslide and two cyclones in the space of five years.

Cleaver and Hutt travelled to the village in the highlands of Ba, Viti Levu, in April to trace its journey of recovery as the first inland village to be relocated due to climate change.

Dart Centre Asia-Pacific director Cait McMahon praised the pair for their sensitivity in reporting the story of Vilimaina Botitu and her family.

“Cleaver and Hutt’s victim-focused story of climate change in Fiji through the eyes of one woman and her family’s tragedy was sensitive, well researched and of a high professional standard,” she said.


“The story was informative, and introduced a difficult-to-report climate change story in a very personal yet non-gratuitous way.

“The modality of hearing the survivor’s voice without interference from the journalist resulted in a well-produced and intelligently edited piece,” McMahon said.

Victim, survivor focus
The Dart Centre Asia-Pacific award is for reporting on the impact of violence, crime, disaster and other traumatic events on individuals, families and communities. Entries should focus on the experience of victims and survivors as well as contribute to public understanding of trauma-related issues.

Former Pacific Media Watch contributing editor Daniel Drageset won the award in 2013 for a story on the torture and abuse of escaped prisoners in Fiji.

Cleaver and Hutt were in Fiji on the Bearing Witness project, a collaborative venture between the University of the South Pacific’s journalism programme, the Pacific Centre for the Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD), the Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre and documentary collective Te Ara Motuhenga.

Bearing Witness seeks to provide an alternative framing of climate change, focusing on resilience and human rights.

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Tiny Timbulsloko fights back in face of Indonesia’s ‘ecological disaster’

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Tiny Timbulsloko fights back in face of Indonesia’s ‘ecological disaster’

Drone views of the village of Timbulsloko showing the scale of coastal erosion and sinking flatlands in an area that once used to to be rice fields on the edge of the Central Java city of Semarang. Mangroves are being rapidly re-established. Drone footage source: CoREM. Video: David Robie’s Café Pacific

By David Robie in Semarang, Indonesia

A vast coastal area of the Indonesian city of Semarang, billed nine months ago by a national newspaper as “on the brink of ecological disaster”, is fighting back with a valiant survival strategy.

Thanks to a Dutch mangrove restoration programme and flexible bamboo-and-timber “eco” seawalls, some 70,000 people at risk in the city of nearly two million have some slim hope for the future.

An area that was mostly rice fields and villages on the edge of the old city barely two decades ago has now become “aquatic” zones as flooding high tides encroach on homes.

Onetime farmers have been forced to become fishermen.

Villagers living in Bedono, Sriwulan, Surodadi and Timbulsloko in Demak regency and urban communities in low-lying parts of the city are most at risk.


Residents have been forced to raise their houses or build protective seawalls or be forced to abandon their homes when their floors become awash.

The lowland subsidence area in north Semarang leading to the volcanic Mt Urganan and Mt Muria/Medak.  Source: CoRem (UNDIP), 2017.

Environmental changes in Semarang have been blamed by scientists on anthropogenic and “natural” factors such as tidal and river flooding – known locally as rob, mangroves destruction since the 1990s, fast urban growth and extensive groundwater extraction.

Climate change
This has been compounded by climate change with frequent and extreme storms.

It has been a pattern familiar in many other low-lying coastal areas in Indonesia, such as the capital Jakarta and second-largest city Surabaya.

The Jakarta Post headline on 2 February 2017. Image: PMC

In February, The Jakarta Post reported that both Jakarta and Semarang faced environmental crises.

Citing Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) researcher Henny Warsilah, a graduate of Paris I-Sorbonne University in France, who measured the resilience of three coastal cities – Jakarta, Semarang and Surabaya – the Post noted only Surabaya had built sufficient environmental and social resilience to face natural disasters.

Jakarta and Semarang, Warsilah said, “were not doing very well”. Although Surabaya was faring much better with its urban policies.

The National Geographic Indonesia banner headline in October 2017. Image: PMC

The fate of some five million people living in Indonesia’s at risk coastal areas – including Semarang — was also profiled in the Indonesian edition of National Geographic magazine last month under the banner headline “Takdir Sang Pesisis” – “The destiny of the coast”.

The introduction asked: “”The disappearance of the mangrove belt now haunts seaside residents. How can they respond to a disaster that is imminent?”

Ongoing reclamation
According to The Jakarta Post, Semarang “has ongoing reclamation projects in the northern part of the city, which threaten to submerge entire neighbourhoods in the next 20 years”.

Urban erosion and land subsidence in Semarang city. Note the raised house second from left, the other sinking dwellings on either side have been abandoned to the tidal waters. Image: David Robie/PMC

“The more [the city] is expanded, the more land will subside because the region is a former volcanic eruption zone, and it is a swamp area,” says Warsilah.

“With the progression of the reclamation projects, the land is not strong enough to withstand the pressure.”

With a team of international geologists and researchers attached to Semarang’s Center for Disaster Mitigation and Coastal Rehabilitation Studies (CoREM) at Diponegoro University, I had the opportunity to visit Timbulsloko village earlier this month to see the growing “crisis” first hand.

City planners might see the only option as the residents being forced to leave for higher ground, but there appear to be no plans in place for this. In any case, local people defiantly say they want to stay and will adapt to the sinking conditions.

An unnamed local shopkeeper who has three generations of her family living in her Timbulsloko home and she doesn’t want to leave in spite of the sea encroaching in her house. Image: David Robie/PMC

One woman, a local shopkeeper, who has a three-generations household in the village with water encroaching into her home at most high tides, says she won’t leave with a broad smile.

I talked to her through an interpreter as she sat with her mother and youngest daughter on a roadside bamboo shelter.

“I have lived here for a long time, and I am very happy with the situation. My husband has his work here as a fisherman,” she said.

A local storekeeper with her mother and youngest daughter – three generations live in her Timbulsloko village home. Video: David Robie’s Café Pacific.

‘We don’t want to leave’
“We live with the flooding and we don’t want to leave.”

A raised house at low tide in Timbulsloko. Image: David Robie/PMC

She also said there was no clear viable alternative for the people of the village – there was no plan by the local authorities for relocation.

Later, she showed me inside her house and how far the water flooded across the floors. Electrical items, such as a television, had to be placed on raised furniture. The children slept on high beds, and the adults clambered onto cupboards to get some rest.

The village has a school, community centre, a mosque and a church – most of these with a sufficiently high foundation to be above the seawater.

However, the salination means that crops and vegetables cannot grow.

The community cemetery is also awash at high tide and there have been reports of eroded graves and sometimes floating bodies to the distress of families.

Timbulsloko’s village cemetery. Video: David Robie’s Café Pacific

We were warned “don’t touch anything with your hands” as the flooding also causes a health hazard.

Research projects
The situation has attracted a number of research projects in an effort to find solutions to some of the problems, the latest being part of the 2017 World Class Professor (WCP) programme funded by the Indonesian government.

Two of the six professors on the University of Gadjah Mada’s WCP programme, in partnership with Diponegoro University, are working with local researchers at CoREM.

WCP programme professors Dr David Menier (centre) and Dr Magaly Koch (right) talk to CoREM director Dr Muhammad Helmi on the Timbulsloko village wharf, near Semarang. Image: David Robie/PMC

They are geologists Dr Magaly Koch, from the Centre for Remote Sensing at Boston University, US, and Dr David Menier, associate professor HDR at Université de Bretage-Sud, France, who are partnered with Dr Muhammad Helmi, also a geologist and director of CoREM, and Dr Manoj Mathew. Both Dr Mathew and Dr Menier are of LGO Laboratoire Géosciences Océan.

The stages of flooding in the Semarang study area. Source: Ramkumar & Menier (2017)

“At the regional scale, the rate of subsidence is related to the geological and geomorphological context. North Java is a coastal plain that is very flat, silty to muddy, influenced by offshore controlling factors (e.g., wave, longshore drifts, tidal currents, etc.) and monsoons, and surrounded by volcanoes,” explains Dr Menier.

Controlling factors along the Semarang coastline. Source: CoRem, (UNDIP)

“Locally, anthropogenic factors can play a serious role as well.”

He says that coastal plains are dynamic. However, human activities are fixed – “the first contradiction”.

“Humans want to control and continue their livelihood, and are reluctant to accept changes related to their own activities or natural factors.”

Dr Menier says the subsidence is due to many factors, but some key issues have never been studied.

On a long term scale, the active faults of the area need to be examined in a geodynamic context and also volcanic activity with Mt Urganan and Mt Muria/Medak.

“We need to have a better understanding of the age of the coastal plain in order to reconstruct the past, explain the present-day and predict the future,” he says.

“Colonisation in the 17th century-Dutch period probably led to destruction of ecosystems (mangrove) and fine sediment usually trapped by plants has been stopped.”

Dr Koch adds: “Subsidence rates and their spatial distribution along the coastal plain need to be studied in detail using InSAR techniques. Groundwater abstraction (using deep wells) is probably happening in the city of Semarang but not necessarily in Demak.”

Expanding mangroves protection at Timbulsloko, Demak regency. Image: David Robie/PMC

Mangrove restoration
Mangrove restoration and mitigation has been used successfully to restore coastal resilience and ecosystems in Timbulsloko.

While noting that “high failure rates are typical” due to wrong special being planted and other factors, Dr Dolfi Debrot, of a Dutch project consortium, argues “given the right conditions, mangrove recovery actually works best without planting at all.”

The consortium involves Witteveen+Bos, Deltares, EcoShape, Wetlands International, Wageningen University and IMARES.

However, community planting is also a strategy deployed in the lowland villages.

Mangroves revitalise aquaculture ponds for crab and shrimp farming.

A “growing land” technique borrowed from the muddy Wadden Sea in the Netherlands has also been used successfully at Timbulsloko and other villages.

Semi-permeable dams are built from bamboo or wooden poles packed with branches to “dampen wave action”. In time, a build up of sediment settles and allows mangroves to grow naturally.

CoREM director Dr Muhammad Helmi … praises the contribution of flexible “eco” seawalls. Image: David Robie/PMC

“These eco-engineering seawalls are better than the concrete fixed barriers,” says Dr Helmi. “The permanent seawalls in turn become eroded at their base and eventually fall over.”

Dr David Robie is on the WCP programme with Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta.

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Migration expert calls for immediate climate action over displaced millions

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Migration expert calls for immediate climate action over displaced millions

Researchers in Bonn warn Pacific Islanders may be among the first to be forced to migrate due to climate change, as sea level rise threatens to make whole islands uninhabitable. Video: Democracy Now!

At least 23 million people were displaced by extreme weather as a result of climate change.

“If we act now in terms of climate change action, … it means we support for people to stay in their homes. … Let’s not make migration a last resort, a tragedy,” says Dina Ionesco, the head of migration, environment and climate change at the International Organisation for Migration.

AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting live from the U.N. climate summit in Bonn.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: This year is known as the first “Islands COP,” with Fiji presiding over this year’s summit. The event itself is being held here in Bonn because of the logistical challenges of hosting thousands of people in Fiji at the start of the South Pacific cyclone season. Researchers here at Bonn are warning that Pacific Islanders may be among the first to be forced to migrate due to climate change, as sea level rise is threatening to make whole islands uninhabitable.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we got a chance to speak with Pacific Islanders who rolled out a red carpet to greet German Chancellor Angela Merkel here at the COP23. The massive banner that went along the floor to the plenary read “Keep it in the ground.” Among those who rolled it out were Pacific warriors Joseph-Zane Sikulu of Tonga and Lusia Feagaiga, a delegate from Samoa. I asked them how climate change is affecting their islands.

LUSIA FEAGAIGA: With the sea levels rising, a lot of our lower-lying atoll countries are being affected. I mean, Marshall Islands is two meters above sea level; Tuvalu, probably three. And once king tides come in, it’s most likely that their villages will be flooded with saltwater because of the rising sea levels. Even in Samoa, places where families, their ancestral homes used to be on the shore, now have to be moved further inland because of the rising sea level. So, it’s affecting way of life. It’s affecting crops and indigenous root crops, because of saltwater intrusion, as well as fresh drinking supplies, as well.


AMY GOODMAN: But island nations are not the only places where climate change is threatening to force people from their homes. Last year, around the world, at least 23 million people were displaced by extreme weather.

For more, we’re joined by Dina Ionesco, the head of migration, environment and climate change at the International Organisation for Migration.

So you just heard people from Tonga and Samoa. What do they face? What is a climate change migrant or climate change refugee?

DINA IONESCO: Well, climate change migration means that the impacts of climate change affect so much the lives of people that they can’t stay in their homes. And very often also, climate change connects to other issues—poverty, for instance, or demographic issues or conflict. And it makes it even more difficult for people to remain. So, climate migration means that people have to move, but also sometimes choose to move, because their environment is degrading. And it can mean, as you said, sudden onset, big storms, floods. There, it’s easier to count who moved because of those causes. But it means also the slow onset, like desertification, sea level rise, land loss. So it’s very complex, many different issues. But the bottom line is that we maybe do not want these people to be forced to move because of climate change. So, this was why we are here.

Climate refugees
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, a few years ago, a man from the island of Kiribati sparked a global debate because he became the first person ever to seek asylum, for him and his family, as climate refugees. So could you tell us about his case and what’s happened with people seeking asylum for climate-related issues?

DINA IONESCO: So, we have to realise that the majority of people who move because of climate change, they move internally. They move within borders. So that means they are under the responsibility of their own states. They are not seeking a climate refugee status, because their own state has to take care of them and respect their human rights. There are some cases—we had the case for these small islands or for Haiti after the earthquake—where people move to across borders, maybe to Brazil or to the US or just across within the same island. And then there’s the question: What right do they have to move, to stay? And there, there are also possibilities to give them a humanitarian visa or a temporary protection that can allow them to stay. You can’t be a refugee for the moment. Maybe it will be, but we don’t know that. It’s very difficult to create a status as a refugee for climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: But what do you think it’s most important for the world to know right now about what the world is doing about climate migrants?

DINA IONESCO: I think one key thing to realize is that if we act now in terms of climate change action, if we take care of the Earth now, it means we support for people to stay in their homes, that they are not forced to migrate. So that’s one key message we have to say. Invest in climate action. It gives people a choice whether to go. They have the right to move if they want to move, but let’s not make migration a last resort, a tragedy, when it’s too late, when there’s nothing else.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Dina Ionesco, we thank you so much.

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