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Climate drowning islands north of Australia – eventually to cause climate refugees

‘The island is being eaten’: how climate change is threatening the Torres Strait
In Boigu, part of Australia but just six kilometres from Papua New Guinea, roads are being washed into the sea, 
Guardian, Ben Doherty and Michael Slezak, 13 July 17, Torres Strait residents face being forced from their homes by climate change, as their islands are lost to rising seas.

On Boigu Island, the most northerly inhabited island in Australia, just six kilometres from Papua New Guinea, the community’s cemetery faces inundation and roads are being washed into the sea. A seawall installed to protect the community is already failing.

Boigu elder Dennis Gibuma says the situation is worsening every season.

“Our seawall is no longer any good,” he says. “When the high tide and strong winds come together, it breaks. We pray we don’t lose our homes. We don’t want to leave this place.”

Masig Island, to the south-east of Boigu, is less than three kilometres long, and just 800m across at its widest point. Also known as Yorke Island, the low-lying coral cay is steadily being lost to the waves.

 “The island is being eaten,” says Songhi Billy, an engineering officer on Masig. “This is a big issue. I kind of feel hopeless in a sense. Our land is part of us.

“In the short term, we can do what we can. We can’t stop the erosion, our hope is to slow it down.”

But he says he has to face the possibility that his people may have to abandon their ancestral home.

“Long term, we may have to evacuate the island,” he says. “But I am not going. Slowly, I see Masig Island getting out of something I can control.”………

The precise sea level rise around the Torres Strait, and the projected inundation, has not been calculated but low-lying islands are expected to experience a much greater flooding risk than mainland Australia. The department identifies the remote islands of the Torres Strait as some of the most vulnerable, as does the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which warns communities they may be forced to relocate………

Displacement caused by climate change is forecast to be a driver of massive forced migration movements in the 21st century.

Low-lying islands in the Pacific – and Torres Strait islands like Masig and Boigu – are likely to be at the forefront of forced displacement but large and densely populated countries such as Bangladesh also face widespread inundation.

Some forecasts have predicted up to 150 million people could be forcibly displaced by climate change by 2040 – larger than the record number of people already forced from their homes globally.

The US and other militaries have said that climate change poses the greatest security threat to the Asia-Pacific.

But the global legal framework for resettling people displaced from their homes lost to natural disasters or climate change is unclear. The refugee convention – established in 1951 to regularise the resettlement of those displaced by the second world war – does not recognise someone forced from their home by rising seas, or natural disaster, as requiring protection.

Already, more than a dozen Pacific Islanders have attempted to claim refugee status in New Zealand on the grounds that their homes are uninhabitable because of rising seas or climate-related disaster. All have had their claims rejected.

On Masig Island, Hilda Mosby says climate change is already affecting the marine ecosystems on which communities depend for their livelihoods. Climate changeis already affecting her community “big time”, she says.

But the greater existential threat for her home lies ahead….https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/13/the-island-is-being-eaten-how-climate-change-is-threatening-the-torres-strait

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July 14, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change, oceans

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