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- Author or Editor: John Middleton x
Climate change is disproportionately affecting Pacific nations, in part, due to their fragile island environments. This change indirectly threatens Pacific languages, with a mass migration of populations occurring and climaterelated language policy still in its infant stage. This work aims to outline the problems and prospects for policy development in this area, with an aim to solving the associated problem of language loss through migration.
The consequences of climate change are vast for small islands and atolls. However, a common misconception is that migration out of a region for climate change only occurs when low-lying areas become uninhabitable due to rising sea levels. This phenomenon is indeed a significant danger; for example, it is conceivable that atolls like Tokelau and Tuvalu, whose highest points are, respectively, only 5 m and 4.6 m above sea level, are in immediate danger of being overcome by the sea. Due to the large circumference of the atolls and their overall low elevation, even a fraction of sea-level rise will disproportionately decrease the land available for habitation. However, while a genuine threat, the “sinking” of these atolls is perhaps a lesser overall concern. There are much broader effects of climate change that influence and motivate the migration of indigenous people away from their homelands. Higher average global temperatures cause increases in climate variability, meaning rainfall patterns, temperature, and cyclones become more variable and less predictable. With a significant weather event, the fresh water on a small island or atoll can be contaminated, destroying its natural water source for days.