Portraits of Resilience | Christine Germane | TEDxRenfrewCollingwood

 

Portraits of Resilience | Christine Germane | TEDxRenfrewCollingwood

Published on Nov 26, 201 4 • This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Listen as photographer and educator Christine Germane tells the stories of Portraits of Resilience, a unique project that illustrates the ethical dimension of the climate change discussion through documenting and sharing the personal stories of indigenous youth. Since 2000, Christine Germane has been collaborating with Indigenous communities as a photographer, educator and curator. The international photojournalism project titled Portraits of Resilience has allowed her to work with indigenous youth to illustrate the personal and ethical effects of climate change on their communities. Since its creation in 2008, the project has occurred in 12 countries and has been exhibited internationally, including the launch at the National Museum of Denmark. With a range of education, awards, and project coordination experience within art and design under her belt, Christine’s exceptional work has provided youth with a medium to share their voice during a crucial period of time.

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The end of beaches? Why the world’s shorelines are in serious trouble

We can have our beachfront properties — our Miami high-rises, our Hamptons mansions, our Jersey boardwalks — or we can have our beaches. But as geologist and Duke University emeritus professor Orrin Pilkey has been arguing for decades now, we can’t have both.

Bradenton Beach, June 2012

As the oceans warm and sea levels rise, coastal living is becoming an increasingly risky proposition. Any climate scientist would tell you not to invest in a beach house, and yet large-scale migration inland is something we’ve yet to see. The beaches themselves can withstand extreme weather, of course. But it’s our attempts to hold them in place, through techno-fixes like seawalls and beach replenishment, that ironically enough will end up destroying them. Sooner or later, Pilkey argues, we’re going to be forced to retreat. The question is whether there’ll be any beach left by then.

The Last Beach,” which Pilkey co-wrote with J. Andrew G. Cooper, a professor of coastal studies at the University of Ulster, is but his latest attempt to drive home just how wrong-headed our push to build on and preserve shorelines is. It’s been an uphill battle; for Pilkey, what counts as progress was that people acknowledged his plea not to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy instead of just attacking him for suggesting it — even if they didn’t really end up following his advice.

Bring pollution, oil spills and the destructive business of sand mining into the picture, and it’s not so extreme, Pilkey told Salon, to imagine a future where beaches as we know them — as places to live and even as places to visit — will no longer exist.

Our conversation, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.

We don’t typically think of beaches as something that can “go extinct,” but it seems like that’s basically what you’re arguing here.

That’s exactly what we argue: that beaches in developed areas will not be there, that they will be replaced by seawalls large and small. There will be beaches left in remote places and on national seashores and things like that, perhaps — although they’ll be suffering too, because they’ll be eroding and retreating back separately from the developed areas, which will be standing still for a while.

By the time we really begin to see what’s happening, like we are right now in Florida, we’ll be worrying about Manhattan and Queens and Boston and Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Miami, Charleston, all those cities. We fully expect that the great expense required to hold back the shoreline — which is a losing proposition in any event — will be overwhelming for them.

It seems to us to be pretty obvious — and I think most geologists would agree with this — that in a 50- to 100-year timeframe we’re in trouble. The best example of that, the proof in the pudding, is Florida, where they have hundreds of miles of highrise-lined shoreline. What can they do? You could move the buildings back, but that’s very costly and there’s no place to move them to. So what we see right now, especially with the current governor of Florida, is the building of seawalls right and left. All you have to do is declare an emergency and you can build a seawall.

In the book, you also discuss how beaches have become dangerous places. So would you say there’s also a loss of beaches, not physically, but as we are able to enjoy them?

Yeah, that was the point of that. We, by the way, were really shocked — the one chapter that was really out of our range was pollution, and we were rather shocked at the numbers. We saw repeated statements about how to use a beach, if you’re going to go to a beach what should you do and how should you use it, in the technical literature, but it hasn’t been getting out to the public. Maybe that’s a little bit of irresponsibility on the part of some of the biochemists in not getting that out to the public. On the other hand, I know what would happen. They would get heavily criticized, probably, as being alarmists.

But yes, the fact is that the beaches are getting more and more polluted, and as more and more villages and towns and cities crowd up against the beaches that’s going to continue. Some of the things the literature said seemed rather outrageous to us. One is never to go barefoot on a beach. That’s a tough one. The one thing that everyone agrees is a bad thing to do is to get buried in the sand. And who in this world has not been buried in the sand at some time in their life? If you have a cut or an abrasion of some kind… I’ve always thought that going in the salt water had a healing effect on cuts, but that was really wrong. I’ve told that to a thousand students over the years, and if any of them are reading this I take it all back. It’s very dangerous.

Well, not very dangerous. There’s a very low probability of getting something, but if you do, the probability of getting something serious is high.

And that’s worse than it used to be?

There are no numbers to show it, that we know of, but yes. The pollutants on beaches are higher than they used to be, we think.

I imagine that you must have trouble getting people to take some of the issues you write about seriously. For example, there’s the beach that was stolen in Jamaica — something like that can come off as an offbeat, funny news story instead of a serious environmental crime. Do you come across that sort of response often?

Where we are not taken seriously? Of course, but I’m used to that because I’ve been arguing for years that we need to move houses back and retreat from the shoreline, or let houses fall in, but not leave them in place. My argument in the past in similar situations has been that we have a choice at the shoreline: We can have beaches or we can have buildings, but we can’t have them both. You have to take your choice — and of course, that is met with a lot of derision by beach property owners.

“The Last Beach,” I anticipate, will be met with some derision, because it seems a little extreme. But it’s not extreme at all. Of that I am certain. In my 40 years of working on this I can see the situation deteriorating. We’re going down a bad road, no question about it, and I feel confident about that.

Right after Superstorm Sandy, you wrote an article for the New York Times arguing that we shouldn’t rebuild. What kind of response did that get?

I got some money — somebody wanted to support my next book. Everything that happened to me directly was good, and I think the response was really good, surprisingly good. I heard that the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) — which is a civilian group beating a hard drum of “there’s no need to retreat” — in their newsletter they made a few nasty comments about me…

A long time ago, when I started saying these things, the response was really negative, like “aw, c’mon, don’t be stupid, nobody’s going to move back.” Now, moving back is not outrageous, and the relationship between seawalls and the loss of beaches is pretty widely known. I think I can say that the response to that editorial was so different than it would have been 30 years ago, 20 years ago. And that’s a good thing.

What about the actual response from people working on recovery from the storm? Did anyone listen? Is the East Coast going to be just as vulnerable the next time a storm comes?

Thirty years ago, the response would have been massive seawalls, there’s no question of that. Hurricane Sandy was the first time I’ve heard serious discussion on the part of the governors of New Jersey and New York about maybe moving back and not rebuilding. As it was, they didn’t do much — they basically rebuilt — but that was music to my ears. I’ve never heard that before. In the past it’s always been “c’mon, we’re Americans, we’re not going to throw up our hands and slink away.”

Almost every house, if there was a house left, had an American flag in front of it. It brought out patriotism, for some reason or another. I guess that’s better than depression, but it’s different. Even though most of these things didn’t bear fruit, we’re getting there. I guess I’m learning that it takes years to get this into the public understanding. I don’t know how many years it’s going to take before we really start moving back, but we’re going to have to, no question about it, or we’ll just give up on the beach. I really believe that we will give up on the beach, for the most part. Beach replenishment, you see, will not be feasible as the sea level rises, because you’re holding the shoreline back in place, where it doesn’t want to be.

The beaches will disappear much faster than they are now. In North Carolina a typical beach lasts about three years. In New Jersey it’s probably about the same, and in Florida, where the wave energy is a little lower, it’s about seven to nine years. In any case, it’s a very costly proposition and it’s definitely going to get more costly.

How far back do people realistically need to move?

It all depends on where you are. If you’re on a barrier island you can move to the back side of the island, but the problem with that is that the back side of the island is lower in elevation. The highest elevation on most barrier islands is at the front of the island, so you’re moving back but on the other hand the chance of being struck directly by waves is increased.

For the most part, if someone is going to go through the cost of moving they ought to get off the island. In Florida, there ain’t no place to get off the island. It’s very, very low and flooding quickly as the sea level rises. We have a photograph in the book of the so-called “Outlaw House” in North Carolina (Outlaw was the family name). It was moved back three or five times, depending on who you believe, and right now it’s very close to the beach once again. That’s a mom-and-pop cottage, and initially it was moved by mules. All the houses near the Outlaw House now are all McMansions. They can be moved, but they’re expensive. The McMansion that was in the movie “Nights in Rodanthe” was just moved down the highway a bit to a safer place — I say safer, but not safe.

In a recent interview, you said you’ve stopped defining yourself as a scientist and have instead become a scientific advocate. When and how did that change come about?

I started out as a deep-sea sedimentologist. I worked on the continental margin of North Carolina and the abyssal plains — I sampled 13 abyssal plains around the world — but I got tired of going to sea. When my parents’ house was damaged in Hurricane Camille, my father and I wrote this little book called “How to Live On an Island,” and it was three eighths of an inch thick and it cost a dollar fifty, and I couldn’t believe the impact it had. People were asking to quote us and so forth, and I realized there was a real vacuum here and I began to move to the beach. I traded a research vessel for a 16-foot skiff, and I’m very happy about that. It’s been very satisfying.

When I first came to Duke it was not possible, before you get tenured, to get involved with controversial things with the general public. One had to wait until one had tenure before one could start pounding on the table about these things, and by the time I got my 16-foot skiff I was already tenured. I had also been a journal editor and a couple other things, and that gave me credibility in the scientific community. Nonetheless, I remember a number of times being criticized by scientists, basically saying “you’re off-base for doing this kind of thing.” I have a 25-book series, “Living with the Shore” for every state, and we have local geologists who were the senior authors of each of these books. I think for probably every book, at least one of the authors would say “I’m not going to lower myself and make science so simple,” or something to that effect, saying that “we can’t expect the public to understand everything we’re doing.”

But I don’t think I hear much of that anymore. I think at least geologists, and probably a lot of others now, are recognizing the value of being able to converse with the public. I know that most universities, Duke included, appreciate work that has an impact on the general public. It’s not like it was when I started at all. We are rewarded for doing such work, although there are local problems in individual states, probably in every state, where public schools still have problems. Here in North Carolina, I know at least two, maybe three geologists who have been asked to turn in their emails, or to furnish all emails that have to do with sea-level rise.

What you’re asking of the public is really difficult: You’re asking them to give up something they love, that they can protect in the short term, in favor of looking at the big picture. It’s something that people come up against with a lot of these environmental and climate problems. Do you have any insights into how to get that message through to people?

The reason you go to beaches is because you went down there with your mother and father during the summer and had the most wonderful time in your whole life, and what could be better than to live there year-round? But here in North Carolina we have some really good newspapers, at least on this issue. I spent a few years back in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and I found that the people there were far less educated on the problem of beaches and seawalls and retreating shorelines. It was a very marginal thing in Massachusetts, but in North Carolina we have a much longer shoreline and a much higher-energy shoreline. So it’s not a surprise to most people. If they come here from Kansas it might be a surprise, but the locals here are pretty well-educated. Excepting the particular political situation we have right now, which is very pro-development — but that comes and goes — I think in North Carolina we’re better prepared than some other states.

The real resistance to good coastal management with a long-term view is coming not from the people who came down there because their mommy and daddy brought them to the beach. It’s coming from the people who are making money on it. From what I’ve seen here, the high-cost developments are the ones who are trying to change the laws to let them build seawalls. They’re going to protect the houses; they couldn’t give a damn about the general public. Up on South Hampton, New York, rich people are building massive walls. They’re doing things that are illegal in some communities, but when you have billions of dollars you can get an army of lawyers to hold off the community very readily. Wealthy communities are the problem. More

 

 

Caribbean small islands will be first in region to suffer from rising sea levels

NAROBI, Kenya, Monday November 3, 2014, CMC – A top United Nations official has warned that the small islands of the Caribbean will be the first territories in the region to suffer the effects of rising sea levels due to climate change.

Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, Achim Steiner, said here on Saturday that the effects of climate change threaten the Caribbean’s tourism industries and, eventually, their “very existence”.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s release of the Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Steiner said sea-level rise will have an “immediate impact in economic terms” on the Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS), stating that the Caribbean’s tourism infrastructure is 99 per cent along the coastline.

“Many small island nations are in a far more exposed situation simply because their territory is sometimes only two, three, four meters (6.5-13 ft.) above sea level,” he said, adding “therefore their very existence is being threatened.

“The changes also in, for instance, coral reefs and mangroves that are natural barriers and help strengthen the resilience of these countries, if coral reefs are dying then clearly countries become more vulnerable,” he added.

Steiner also cited the impact of more intense hurricanes and other extreme weather events on countries whose economies cannot bear the cost of reconstruction.

On a more hopeful note, he praised proactive efforts by some Caribbean countries, such as Barbados, where “energy efficiency efforts and renewable deployment are now on the agenda of investment and national development planning”.

The efforts of the Barbados government were one reason the United Nations decided to mark 2014 World Environment Day in Barbados, Steiner said. More

 

IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change. What does it mean for the Caribbean?IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change. What does it mean for the Caribbean?

The Caribbean’s response to Climate Change is grounded in a firm regional commitment, policy and strategy. Our three foundation documents – The Liliendaal Declaration (July 2009), The Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change (July 2009) and its Implementation Plan (March 2012) – are the basis for climate action in the region.

The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underscores the importance, scientific rigour and utility of these landmark documents. The IPCC’s latest assessment confirms the Caribbean Community’s longstanding call to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees celsius as outlined in the Liliendaal Declaration. At the Nations Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) Meeting in 2009, which took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Caribbean Community indicated to the world community that a global temperature rise above 1.50C would seriously affect the survival of the community.

In 2010 at the UNFCCC COP Meeting in Cancun, governments agreed that emissions ought to be kept at a level that would ensure global temperature increases would be limited to below 20C. At that time, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which includes the Caribbean, re-iterated that any rise in temperature above 1.50C would seriously affect their survival and compromise their development agenda. The United Nations Human Development Report (2008) and the State of the World Report (2009) of The Worldwatch Institute supports this position and have identified 20C as the threshold above which irreversible and dangerous Climate Change will become unavoidable.

Accordingly, the Caribbean welcomes the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report prepared by over 2000 eminent scientists. It verifies observations in the Caribbean that temperatures are rising, extreme weather events are occurring more frequently, sea levels are rising, and there are more incidences of coral bleaching. These climatic changes will further exacerbate the limited availability of fresh water, agricultural productivity, result in more erosion and inundation, and increase the migration of fish from the Caribbean to cooler waters and more hospitable habitats. The cumulative effect is reduced food security, malnutrition, and productivity, thus increasing the challenges to achieving poverty reduction and socio-economic development.

The report notes that greenhouse gases emissions, the cause of Climate Change, continues to rise at an ever increasing rate. Unless this trend is arrested and rectified by 2050, global temperatures could rise by at least 4°C by 2100. This would be catastrophic for the Caribbean. However, the report is not all gloom and doom. More than half of the new energy plants for electricity are from renewable resources, a trend that must accelerate substantially if the goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C by 2100 is to remain feasible.

The IPCC AR5 Report should therefore serve as a further wake up call to our region that we cannot continue on a business as usual trajectory. It is an imperative that Climate Change be integrated in every aspect of the region’s development agenda, as well as its short, medium and long-term planning. The region must also continue to aggressively engage its partners at the bilateral and multilateral levels to reduce their emissions. The best form of adaptation is reduction in emissions level.

Dr Kenrick Leslie

The IPCC will adopt the Synthesis Report of the AR5 in Copenhagen, Denmark in late October 2014. Caribbean negotiators are already preparing to ensure that the most important information from the report are captured in the Synthesis Report.

See the highlights of the Caribbean Launch of the UN IPCC AR5 Report in this video:

Learn more about the implications of the IPCC AR5 Report via http://www.caribbeanclimate.bz and @CaribbeanClimate.

* Dr Kenrick Leslie is the Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, the regional focal point for Climate Change.

I’m fighting to keep my home above water

My name is Milañ Loeak, I’m from the Marshall Islands, and I bring you a message on behalf of my Climate Warrior brothers and sisters from across Oceania.

You’ve probably heard it all before — that the climate is changing, that the ocean is rising, that my home in the islands will be the first to go. But the people of the Pacific are not drowning, we are fighting. And the biggest threat to our homes is the fossil fuel industry.

So here’s how we’re fighting back: there’s a coal port in Newcastle, Australia and it’s the largest in the world, shipping approximately 617,000 tons of coal every single day. If the port were a country, it would be the 9th highest emitting country in the world. That’s why I have travelled to Australia to shut it down for a day.

Using traditional canoes, I and 30 other Pacific Climate Warriors are going to paddle into the oncoming path of coal ships. Behind us will be hundreds of Australians in kayaks, on surfboards and whatever else they can find, united with us as we stand up to the fossil fuel industry.

But we need more than hundreds of Australians standing with us — we are going to need you too.

The fossil fuel industry will try to dismiss us. They will launch their PR machine to say that we are just a small group acting alone and that we do not speak for others. But we know that we are not acting alone. We are standing with front line communities around the world when we say it is time to end our addiction to fossil fuels before it destroys our homes, our communities, and our culture.

As the Pacific Climate Warriors paddle into the water on October 17th, show that you stand with us — click here to sign on to our call for solidarity.

Stopping one day of coal exports alone won’t keep our homes above water, but it marks the rise of the Pacific Climate Warriors, and the beginning of our defense of the Pacific Islands.

I ask you to join us in this fight — because we cannot save the Pacific Islands on our own.

Warm Pacific wishes,

Milañ Loeak, Republic of the Marshall Islands


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Antigua Faces Climate Risks with Ambitious Renewables Target

Ruth Spencer is a pioneer in the field of solar energy. She promotes renewable technologies to communities throughout her homeland of Antigua and Barbuda, playing a small but important part in helping the country achieve its goal of a 20-percent reduction in the use of fossil fuels by 2020.

She also believes that small non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have a crucial role to play in the bigger projects aimed at tackling the problems caused by the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas.

Spencer, who serves as National Focal Point for the Global Environment Facility (GEF)-Small Grants Programme (SGP) in Antigua and Barbuda, has been at the forefront of an initiative to bring representatives of civil society, business owners and NGOs together to educate them about the dangers posed by climate change.

“The GEF/SGP is going to be the delivery mechanism to get to the communities, preparing them well in advance for what is to come,” she told IPS.

The GEF Small Grants Programme in the Eastern Caribbean is administered by the United Nations office in Barbados.

“Since climate change is heavily impacting the twin islands of Antigua and Barbuda, it is important that we bring all the stakeholders together,” said Spencer, a Yale development economist who also coordinates the East Caribbean Marine Managed Areas Network funded by the German government.

“The coastal developments are very much at risk and we wanted to share the findings of the IPCC report with them to let them see for themselves what all these scientists are saying,” Spencer told IPS.

“We are in a small island so we have to build synergies, we have to network, we have to partner to assist each other. By providing the information, they can be aware and we are going to continue doing follow up….so together we can tackle the problem in a holistic manner,” she added.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has sent governments a final draft of its synthesis report, which paints a harsh picture of what is causing global warming and what it will do to humans and the environment. It also describes what can be done about it.

Ruleta Camacho, project coordinator for the sustainable island resource management mechanism within Antigua and Barbuda’s Ministry of the Environment, told IPS there is documented observation of sea level rise which has resulted in coastal erosion and infrastructure destruction on the coastline.

She said there is also evidence of ocean acidification and coral bleaching, an increase in the prevalence of extreme weather events – extreme drought conditions and extreme rainfall events – all of which affect the country’s vital tourism industry.

“The drought and the rainfall events have impacts on the tourism sector because it impacts the ancillary services – the drought affects your productivity of local food products as well as your supply of water to the hotel industry,” she said.

“And then you have the rainfall events impacting the flooding so you have days where you cannot access certain sites and you have flood conditions which affect not only the hotels in terms of the guests but it also affects the staff that work at the hotels. If we get a direct hit from a storm we have significant instant dropoff in the productivity levels in the hotel sector.”

Antigua and Barbuda, which is known for its sandy beaches and luxurious resorts, draws nearly one million visitors each year. Tourism accounts for 60 to 75 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, and employs nearly 90 percent of the population.

Like Camacho, Ediniz Norde, an environment officer, believes sea level rise is likely to worsen existing environmental stresses such as a scarcity of freshwater for drinking and other uses.

“Many years ago in St. John’s we had seawater intrusion all the way up to Tanner Street. It cut the street in half. It used to be a whole street and now there is a big gutter running through it, a ship was lodged in Tanner Street,” she recalled.

“Now it only shows if we have these levels of sea water rising that this is going to be a reality here in Antigua and Barbuda,” Norde told IPS. “This is how far the water can get and this is how much of our environment, of our earth space that we can lose in St. John’s. It’s a reality that we won’t be able to shy away from if we don’t act now.”

As the earth’s climate continues to warm, rainfall in Antigua and Barbuda is projected to decrease, and winds and rainfall associated with episodic hurricanes are projected to become more intense. Scientists say these changes would likely amplify the impact of sea level rise on the islands.

But Camacho said climate change presents opportunities for Antigua and Barbuda and the country must do its part to implement mitigation measures.

She explained that early moves towards mitigation and building renewable energy infrastructure can bring long-term economic benefits.

“If we retrain our population early enough in terms of our technical expertise and getting into the renewable market, we can actually lead the way in the Caribbean and we can offer services to other Caribbean countries and that’s a positive economic step,” she said.

“Additionally, the quicker we get into the renewable market, the lower our energy cost will be and if we can get our energy costs down, it opens us for economic productivity in other sectors, not just tourism.

“If we can get our electricity costs down we can have financial resources that would have gone toward your electricity bills freed up for improvement of the [tourism] industry and you can have a better product being offered,” she added. More

 

UN:Rapid mangrove loss costing $ billions

(CNS): The world is losing its mangroves at a faster rate than global deforestation, the United Nations has revealed in a new report which points to billions of dollars in economic damage impacting millions of lives.

Mangrove Destruction in Cancun

The destruction of the coastal habitats is said to now be three to five times faster than global forest loss resulting in $42 billion losses annually and exposing ecosystems and coastal habitats to an increased risk of devastation from climate change. The report was launched Monday at the 16th Global Meeting of the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans, held in Athens, Greece, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned of the far reaching implications of the habitat loss. Although a global phenomenon the Cayman Islands has seen miles of costal mangrove sacrificed in the name of development in recent years

“The escalating destruction and degradation of mangroves – driven by land conversion for aquaculture and agriculture, coastal development, and pollution – is occurring at an alarming rate,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner who added that over a quarter of the earth’s original mangrove cover has gone.“This has potentially devastating effects on biodiversity, food security and the livelihoods of some of the most marginalized coastal communities in developing countries, where more than 90 per cent of the world’s mangroves are found,” he added.Steiner said mangroves – which are found in 123 countries around the world – provide ecosystem services worth up to $57,000 per hectare per year, storing carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and providing the over 100 million people who live in their vicinity with a variety of goods and services such as fisheries and forest products, clean water and protection against erosion and extreme weather events. He stressed that their continued destruction “makes neither ecological nor economic sense.”As well as the economic problems posed by mangrove deforestation, the report, entitled The Importance of Mangroves: A Call to Action, also cautions that a continued reduction in the surface area of mangrove forests would inevitably expose coastal environments to the harmful effects of climate change.In the Caribbean, mangrove-lined “hurricane holes” have functioned for centuries as safe-havens for boaters needing to ride out storms. The complex network of mangrove roots can also help reduce wave energy, limit erosion and form a critical barrier to the dangers posed by the strengthening tropical storms, cyclones and tsunamis which have been assailing coastal communities in recent years due to climate change.In order to safeguard what UNEP calls “one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet,” the report outlines a number of financial mechanisms and incentives designed to stimulate conservation, including the creation of a Global Mangrove Fund, encouraging mangrove conservation and restoration through carbon credit markets, and promoting economic incentives as a source of local income from mangrove protection, sustainable use, and restoration activities.Steiner said it was important to spell out the need to preserve mangroves in real terms, underlining the economic impact their destruction has on the local and global communities.“By quantifying in economic terms the value of the ecosystem services provided by mangroves as well as the critical role they play in global climate regulation, the report aims to encourage policymakers to use the tools and guidelines outlined to better ensure the conservation and sustainable management of mangroves.” More

 

On Low-Carbon Economies

RMI and Carbon War Room are working together to help Caribbean islands transition to lowcarbon, clean-energy economies

Former Costa Rican president and Carbon War Room head José María Figueres on islands, carbon, and global energy use

In 1994 at age 39, José María Figueres was elected president of Costa Rica, becoming the youngest president of a Central American country during modern times. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, his administration focused on sustainable development. Since then, he has served as the chair of a United Nations taskforce, CEO of the World Economic Forum and then Concordia 21, and most recently president of Sir Richard Branson’s nonprofit Carbon War Room. Fresh off travel through parts of Asia with RMI chief scientist Amory Lovins, we asked Figueres about the importance of working with islands, creating low-carbon economies, and how to accelerate transforming global energy use.

José María Figueres

Rocky Mountain Institute: Like RMI CEO Jules Kortenhorst, your background spans business and government. Looking at today’s energy and climate challenges, why are market-based solutions — even if bolstered by supportive governmental policies — so important for driving change?

José María Figueres: About 40 percent of global carbon emissions can be profitably avoided today within existing international agreements and national regulations by applying already-proven technologies. RMI and CWR are leaders in helping businesses realize this terrific market opportunity. As we get more capital to flow into financing the transition toward clean energy and lower carbon emissions, we can provide profitable example for others to follow and broaden understanding about these issues at the same time.

RMI: Looking at RMI and Carbon War Room’s collaborative work together in the Caribbean, including the Creating Climate Wealth summit earlier this year, why is focusing on islands so important, given their small contribution to climate change yet great vulnerability in the face of it?

JMF: Working with islands to shift their energy base from fossil fuels to renewables is important for at least three reasons. First, it helps improve the quality of life for island residents, who are burdened with some of the highest electricity prices in the world. Second, such a transition creates jobs, investment possibilities, and entrepreneurial opportunities that render these islands — normally dependent on tourism for the overwhelming bulk of their economies — more competitive. And third, our work with islands can yield shining examples of a successful transition to lower-carbon, clean-energy economies using existing technologies. This will hopefully inspire others to follow in their footsteps, and not only on literal islands. After all, islands need not be surrounded by water. They can be an off-grid mine, a rural community, an isolated military installation, and much more.

RMI: Costa Rica, already known as an ecotourism hot spot and global leader in environmental stewardship, has set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2021. Your energy mix is already almost entirely renewable (mostly hydro plus some geothermal and wind), with an impressively small amount of fossil fuels. As the country embraces diversification with other renewables, such as solar in the Guanacaste region, what lessons can the rest of the world learn from your successes and challenges?

JMF: The first lesson is that renewables are profitable. Powered by renewables Costa Rica has successfully diversified its economy, with a very pronounced and competitive export-oriented bias. Secondly, we are living proof it can be done even among developing nations with scarcer economic resources than the developed world. Thirdly, our experience shows that systemic thinking in addressing these challenges is much better than a “silo” focus.

RMI: What do you see as the most significant barriers that stand in the way of transforming global energy use? With renewables making an increasingly compelling economic case — garnering billions of dollars of global investment, while their costs keep declining, making that investment go further — how can we accelerate their adoption and topple incumbent fossil fuels?

JMF: There is nothing harder than changing cultural attitudes. Most of the world grew up on fossil fuels without thinking of their unintended consequences: increasing carbon emissions driving climate change. Now we must change our habits and practices, and do so within a ten- to fifteen-year window to avoid temperature changes from escalating beyond two degrees Celsius. This requires broadening our understanding with respect to the business opportunities it entails, strong leadership to change present business models, and public-private partnerships to make progress in the short time we have to act.

RMI: With China and the U.S. dominating global oil imports, fossil fuel consumption (especially coal), and carbon emissions, how do smaller countries such as Costa Rica and the Caribbean’s island-nations perceive their place in that landscape?

JMF: Smaller nations face both a great challenge and a great opportunity. The challenge — and it’s not an easy one to come to terms with — is that even if we do everything we can in the smaller nations and reduce our carbon footprint to zero, the world still needs China, the U.S., Brazil, India, and other large players to do more and move faster. The opportunity, though, is for smaller nations to set an example in the transition to low-carbon economies, which hopefully inspires others to follow. Then, the issue becomes one of scaling solutions, rather than proving them in the first place. Smaller nations can become early-adopters proving the case that paves the way for other major world energy powers to follow.

Follow José María on Twitter.

This article is from the Summer 2014 issue of Rocky Mountain Institute’s Solution Journal. To read more from back issues of Solutions Journal, please visit the RMI website.

 

Commentary: Christopher Jorebon Loeak – President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands

 

This is the transcript of a video “address to the world” released by President Loeak on 18 September 2014 ahead of the UN Secretary-General's Climate Summit. The full video can be viewed here.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8t7ElMPS_8

Out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, climate change has arrived.

In the last year alone, my country has suffered through unprecedented droughts in the north, and the biggest ever king tides in the south; and we have watched the most devastating typhoons in history leave a trail of death and destruction across the region.

Lying just two meters above sea level, my atoll nation stands at the frontline in the battle against climate change. The beaches of Buoj where I use to fish as a boy are already under water, and the fresh water we need to grow our food gets saltier every day. As scientists had predicted, some of our islands have already completely disappeared, gone forever under the ever-rising waves. For the Marshall Islands and our friends in the Pacific, this is already a full-blown climate emergency.

Some tell us that we should begin planning to leave. But how can we? And why should we? These islands are our home. They hold our history, our heritage and our hopes for the future. Are the world's polluters asking us to give up our language, our culture, and our national identity? We are not prepared to do that – we will stay and fight. If the water comes, it comes.

Brick by brick, I built the seawall behind me with my own hands. But even this is barely enough to protect my family from the encroaching waves. Last year, after returning from a visit to the United Nations in New York, I was so shocked by the damage from the rising tides that I added another foot of bricks to the wall.

In the Marshall Islands we have a saying – “Wa kuk wa jimer”. It means that we are all in the same boat together. What is happening here is a mere preview of the havoc that awaits if we continue with our polluting ways. If my country goes, others will surely follow. We are the canary in the coalmine.

The climate crisis is forcing us to take matters into our own hands, both at home and on the international stage. Last year the Marshall Islands hosted the largest-ever Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' meeting in Majuro and it remains one of the proudest moments of my Presidency.

The big outcome was the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership, a powerful message from the world's most vulnerable countries to the big emitters that surround us that the time for talk is over, and the time for action is now. Our efforts had an impact with the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Japan all committing to be climate leaders, and to do more to tackle climate change. At this time last year, I presented the Declaration to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and promised to bring the spirit of Majuro to his Climate Change Leaders' Summit in New York, which is now less than a week away.

The Summit comes not a moment too soon. It is the first gathering of world leaders on climate change in nearly five years, and just over a year before our deadline to sign a new global treaty on climate change in Paris at the end of 2015.

Paris cannot be another Copenhagen. The world has changed too much. The science is more alarming, the impacts more severe, the economics more compelling, and the politics more potent. Even the world's two biggest polluters – China and the United States – are working together to find a pathway to a new global agreement.

But there are still some that seek to slow us down.

To my fellow world leaders I say “next week's Summit is a chance for all of us to be the leaders we were elected to be”. We must send a strong and united message to the world – and to the people that we represent – that we are ready to do a deal next year. And to avoid the worst impacts of a warmer world, this new deal must capture a vision for a carbon-free world by the middle of the century. Without it, no seawall will be high enough to save my country. Together, we must find the courage to rise to this challenge. It is time to build the greatest climate change alliance the world has ever seen.

My people are counting on it, as is all of humanity.

Christopher J. Loeak is the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands