The Marshall Islands ‘Will Go Under’ If The Paris Climate Talks Fail, Foreign Minister Says

The Marshall Islands, a network of small islands in the South Pacific, is one of the countries most at risk of the dangers of climate change. The roughly 50,000 people who call the Marshalls home are facing rising sea levels, increasingly violent storms, drought and flooding.


Last year, an especially high tide inundated several of the islands, including Majuro, the largest and most populous. Parts of the island were under water. Hundreds of people had to flee their houses. The president said later that his people “stand to lose everything.”


In November, world leaders will meet in Paris for a conference on climate change. This week, in a joint interview with The WorldPost and Al Jazeera America, Tony de Brum, the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, discussed global warming and his goals for the Paris talks.


Christiana Figueres, the U.N. climate chief, recently said that no matter what countries pledge in Paris, we’ll still be on track for a 3-degree rise in global temperatures. What is your reaction to that?


We want to keep everything under 2 degrees — under 1.5 degrees, if possible. We want the world to keep that as a goal. For us, anything more than that is not an option. It means that the islands will go under. For the Marshalls, for 39 atolls in the Federated States of Micronesia, for three atolls in Palau, for Maldives, for Tokelau — anything over 2 degrees is catastrophic.


That is why we’ve been insisting that the language be kept — the language we agreed to many years ago — of 1.5 to 2 degrees of global warming. And that there be a five year cycle of negotiations so that people can ratchet up their commitments and respond to science and technology on a much quicker basis.


If you wait too long and, for example, set a ten-year plan in 2020, we’d return to the negotiating table in 15 years. That’s too much time — too long for small vulnerable islands. It would reach a point where there are more irreversible consequences of climate change than there are solvable ones. Adaptation and dealing with the impacts of climate change become a lot more expensive. We need to do something about it now.


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