Paris Climate Talks: The Question Rich Nations Don’t Want To Answer
Behind the scenes, developing nations and those facing an existential threat from a warming planet are working on a problem no one wants to acknowledge. No matter the outcome of the Paris climate conference, some of the damage of the climate change is already locked-in. Thom Mitchell, New Matilda’s environmental reporter, has this report from Paris.
The industrialisation of now-rich countries has bequeathed saline, flooded and increasingly useless soils to Maina Talia. “We have lost a few islands to the sea,” he says. “Most of the others during high tide are unfit for cultivation.”
The fish are disappearing. It’s cheaper to buy them in cans shipped from Australia or Fiji than at the market. A bigger market has taken hold, and for the oceanic folk of Tuvalu, in the South Pacific, practicing this aspect of their culture demands ever-increasing amounts of time, energy and, ironically, petrol.
Earlier in the week, after jetting into international climate negotiations in Paris, Barack Obama labelled himself an ‘island boy’. The American President may have grown up in Hawaii, but Talia still lives in Tuvalu, and he’s fighting countries like the United States for his ability to continue to do so.
A climate activist based on the low-lying nation’s largest island, Vaitupu, Talia told a well-attended side event at the United Nations talks that “the loss of culture, heritage and land, to us, is equal to death”.
That being the case, just under 11,000 Tuvaluans are on life-support because of the unrelenting support people like Obama have shown the fossil fuel industries that power developed economies.
But medicine can be expensive, and the rich nations which dominate international diplomacy have so far avoided the crucial question of who will pay for the already dire consequences of an increasingly hostile climate now presenting as an existential menace to a growing number of the global poor.