Archived News Item

Beyond Cyclone Pam

Category Five Cyclone Pam, which recently devastated Vanuatu, was one of the most intense tropical storms on record. The latest estimates suggest that up to 24 people have died, however the damage and casualties in outlying areas of Vanuatu are yet to be properly assessed. While the destruction caused by Cyclone Pam is clearly a humanitarian tragedy that will set back development in this small island nation, the surrounding region – including Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands – were also battered by the Category Five storm.

While there are many factors that trigger these seasonal storms, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report points out (with high confidence) that tropical cyclones are one of the current and future climate-related drivers of risk for small islands through the 21st Century.

The people of the Pacific Islands are not strangers to the ravages of anthropogenic climate change. While the Pacific Islands contribute only .06% to global warming compared to that of Australia as the second biggest contributor per capita, it is small nations such as Kiribati who are most greatly affected by the threat of rising sea levels and water shortages on the island. Many of these islands are faced with not only the economic costs of climate change, but more importantly the social and cultural costs of relocating communities impacted by climate change and storm surges.

ISMAPNG believe that the natural environment is not merely a resource for the benefit of human beings but has intrinsic value as part of God’s good creation. Our commitment to the environment arises out of the Christian belief that God, as the Creator of the universe, calls us into a special relationship with the creation – a relationship of mutuality and interdependence which seeks the reconciliation of all creation with God. Our Constitutions remind us that “as members of the Earth community, we are integrally connected with each other and the whole of creation.” (Constitutions 2.02)

We believe that Australia’s approach to mitigating the negative impacts of climate change must be one that takes into account the needs and wishes of our closest neighbours. We are mindful of the fact that those who are most deeply impacted by environmental injustices are often those who are persecuted and powerless themselves. With this in mind, the Institute recently joined the Pacific Calling Partnership – a non-profit organisation of religious leaders, facilitated by the Edmund Rice Centre. Over the coming months, the Institute Mission Team will represent ISMAPNG at Pacific Calling Partnership workshops and meetings, to create an advocacy program that works with the people of the Pacific Island in partnership and cooperation. Our goal is to ensure that those living in areas vulnerable to climate change are empowered and that their voices – calling for a rights-based approach to this global injustice – are heard.

To learn more about supporting the Pacific Calling Partnership, please visit their website.

You can also download a Climate Change Action Kit from the ARRCC (Australian Religious Response to Climate Change) website.

Messages to: Siobhan Marren – Research Officer ISMAPNG