The early impacts of climate change are already being observed by people living in vulnerable communities:
On 18 April 2008 the Office of the Governor of Pohnpei, one of the four Federated States of Micronesia, declared municipalities in its outer islands to be in a state of emergency due to saltwater incursion of taro fields. The declaration states that ‘the sources of food and livelihood of the people from these outer municipalities are threatened by the global warming that has resulted in unprecedented incursion of seawater into the agricultural lands; whereas the seawater incursion has resulted in the tremendous decline of agricultural production which in turn poses serious risks to sustenance and health conditions of the people’.
In the spring we used to hunt walrus and bowhead whale along leads in the ice, said Merlin Koonooka, from Gambell, Alaska (at a Convention on Biological Diversity meeting on Climate Change in Helsinki, Finland, 26 March 2008). But the ice we have now is of a different behaviour. It tends to move in one big mass compressed together near the shore. This is ‘warm water ice’: it is not a good solid freeze. This is bad ice. Game does not like to stay on this ice. It also interferes with hunting because it is difficult and dangerous to get across it to get to the open water. It also breaks up very easily; storms just break it up. The larger floes (floating ice islands) that crack open in the middle forming large leads of open water ideal for whaling and other hunting do not occur much with this kind of ice anymore.
Annie Kelly reports in The Guardian press release ‘Hope dries up for Nicaragua's Miskito’ (29 May 2007) that residents of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu claim to be the first climate change refugees, as many have been forced to flee to neighbouring New Zealand to escape rising seas. The islands, only three feet above sea level, are expected to disappear below the waves. Indigenous communities in Puerto Rico have seen plants they gather for traditional medicines disappear, making it impossible to continue healing practices. Severe droughts are forcing the nomadic Turkana people of north-west Kenya into towns and relief camps as entire herds of camels, cows and goats are being wiped out. Although they are accustomed to months of dry weather and resulting food shortages, droughts are becoming more intense and more frequent.
Are you on the frontlines of climate change? What changes are you already observing? How are they affecting your community?
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