Sign Up

From Cold War to the Warming War

How are the concerns of smaller nations regarding global warming different than those of larger countries?

July 30, 2007

How are the concerns of smaller nations regarding global warming different than those of larger countries?

Climate change is increasingly recognized as a threat to people across the world — but here more so than by people living in small island nations. In a recent address to the United Nations Security Council, the representative of the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, Afelee Pita, gave voice to his people’s concerns.

Climate change is a topic of extreme importance to a small, atoll nation like Tuvalu.

Ocean warming is changing the very nature of our island nation. Slowly, our coral reefs are dying through coral bleaching. We are witnessing changes to fish stocks — and we face the increasing threat of more severe cyclones.

With the highest point on Tuvalu four meters above sea level, the threat of severe cyclones is extremely disturbing, and severe water shortages will further threaten the livelihoods of people in its many islands.

Our livelihood is already threatened by sea level rise — and the implications for our long- term security are very disturbing. Many have spoken about the possibility of migrating from our homeland. If this becomes a reality, then we are faced with an unprecedented threat to our nationhood.

But Tuvalu is not alone in facing the threats of climate change. Many millions of people will suffer the effects.

The world has moved from a global threat once called the Cold War, to what now should be considered the “Warming War.” Our conflict is not with guns and missiles but with weapons from everyday lives — chimney stacks and exhaust pipes. We are confronted with a chemical war of immense proportions.

With regard to energy, it is clear from the ongoing world crisis that the security dimensions of prohibitive access to — and use of — sources of energy must be addressed. The world needs a mix of energy sources that is easily accessible to all countries and communities.

Tuvalu’s own security is also threatened by the high costs of energy supply. Importing fossil fuels into Tuvalu to provide fuel for our electricity generation and inter-island transport is one of the greatest drains on our economy — which could otherwise have been saved for climate change adaptation.

Our economic sustainability is contingent on acquiring self-sustaining and reliable renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

We are a peace-loving nation and have no army. We pose no security threat even if we face the full consequences of climate change — but we must not disappear from the Security Council radar screen. As the great Martin Luther King said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

It is our view that the rapid development and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies must be the primary focus of an energy security agenda. These have the benefits of creating energy self-sufficiency, reducing poverty — and making a major contribution to mitigating climate change.

We also need a global strategy on adaptation and disaster risk reduction — which should include new insurance facilities.

We strongly encourage the Security Council to review its charter and to fully embrace the concept of environmental security within its mandate. This is not simply a matter of identifying trouble spots where armed conflict may be linked to environmental decline.

We believe that the Security Council should address environmental decline as a security issue in itself.

Tuvalu sincerely hopes that the Security Council can find a meaningful way to address the security concerns of extremely vulnerable countries.

Editor’s Note: Adapted from remarks delivered by Afelee F. Pita, Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Tuvalu, to the Special Session of the UN Security Council on Energy, Climate and Security on April 17, 2007.