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Editorial Reflections

Global warming, rising sea level require action

While some ask if global warming is real or a scientific fiction, global warming has become the center of political, scientific, environmental, economic and social debate. Global warming is real. Humanity is already facing the worldwide impact of global warming. It affects everyone.

Scientists point to human activity as the main cause, leading to the rise of the sea level. This originates from the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities.

As a result, over the past centuries a huge amount of carbon dioxide became trapped in the atmosphere. These emissions have caused the Earth’s surface temperature to rise, which causes the sea level to rise at an accelerated pace.

This rising of the sea level threatens low-lying coastal cities and low-lying islands. Small islands throughout all oceans are facing the problem directly. The islands of Tuvalu, Vanuatu, the Solomons, Tonga, my home island, and others in the South Pacific, are already experiencing the consequences first-hand.

Many people in these islands are increasingly vulnerable to flooding and the tides enveloping their land. As seawater reaches further inland, it causes destructive erosion, flooding wetlands, contaminating agricultural soil, and losing habitat for people, animals and plants.

Many people must abandon their homes and relocate to higher places, including migrating overseas. Some of the lowest-lying islands will be submerged completely within a few generations.

When I visited Alaska in August, I went to the Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjord National Park, several days before President Barack Obama was there. When I stepped into the icy, swift-flowing glacial stream, I thought these waters might eventually arrive to engulf my home islands in Tonga.   

Obama’s visit to Alaska was important in that it visibly and clearly showed that this leader has finally prioritized the discussion about global warming and climate change. According to signs along the trail showing how much the glacier has melted each decade since the 1800s, I learned that during the last 10 to 15 years it had melted as much as during the previous 50 years.

Seeing in person how fast the glacier has melted in just a short time, and the damage that has already happened in the islands of the Pacific, for me there is no need to consult additional scientific evidence to prove the grave consequences of a warmer planet.

As a result of climate change, the Western states, including Washington and California, have faced one of the worst droughts and fire seasons in their history.

Scientists and environmentalists predict that if humanity continues our present lifestyles, using up resources unwisely, the warming of the planet will accelerate faster. Oceans will continue to rise faster. In that sense, we can only look forward to more damage and more devastation. 

There is a call and a challenge for all of us. Our divine assigned task is to be stewards and keepers of the land. We need to be more responsible in using our resources on a daily basis.

As Pope Francis remarked this week at the White House, “Climate change is a problem that we can no longer leave for the future generations.”

It is already happening, and it has begun to damage our home, the planet Earth.

Therefore, we must act now, beginning by making small and big changes in how we lead our daily lives not only to reduce pollution but also to provide a healthier environment and society.

Each and every single person should act more responsibly, respectfully and carefully toward creation and other people in order for the planet and for us to survive.

Ikani Fakasiieiki

Guest editorial writer


Ikani graduated with a PhD in May in biblical studies from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif. 

Copyright © October 2015 - The Fig Tree