Young people confront climate change
As young people celebrate International Youth Day today (12 August 2008), they are being asked to take an active role in tackling the issue of climate change.
Youth and climate change: time for action is the theme of this year’s celebrations.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Adviser for Youth, Rose Maebiru, says the issue of climate change is one of the main challenges young people in the Pacific will have to face in the coming years.
‘They need to increase their awareness of the issue and begin to think about necessary measures to confront it,’ she says.
She encourages national, regional and international agencies as well as government departments to assist young people by involving them in initiatives concerning environmental issues and climate change.
SPC Community Fisheries Scientist Mecki Kronen says education is the best ally to help young people prepare for climate change and its consequences.
She says Pacific people are best qualified to find their own solutions to adjusting to the effects of climate change as they have always lived in harmony with nature: ‘They have developed ways to adapt to environmental opportunities around them for their livelihoods.’
This local knowledge coupled with scientific knowledge will prepare Pacific people to face the consequences of climate change. Pacific youth in particular, through their access to education, can take a leading role, Dr Kronen says.
‘Young people can enrich the cultural knowledge that has been handed down to them through the generations by taking an interest in scientific research,’ she says. ‘They should make use of new technologies to actively participate in the formulation of political strategies that are adapted to the environmental conditions of their region and the needs of their own people.’
The Senior Fisheries Scientist in SPC’s Strategic Policy and Planning Unit, Johann Bell, says that not all changes to environmental conditions can be attributed to climate change, because there is considerable natural variation in weather patterns. However, more extremes in the weather can be expected due to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. People need to be aware that such changes are predicted and that they will become more likely as time passes.
Dr Bell says that while these changes may disadvantage some countries, they may benefit others. With regard to food production activities, for example, some forms of food production may improve while others may diminish.
‘Young people need to be aware that we’re entering a period of continuous change and they will have to learn how to adapt and capitalise on some of the changes,’ Dr Bell says. ‘They will have to diversify their activities for producing food and income, particularly if they currently rely on just a couple of commodities for their livelihoods.’
One predicted change that Pacific youth need to be aware of is the degradation of coral reefs – warm sea temperatures and more acidic oceans will limit the growth of coral reefs. The fish that live on coral reefs will then change, which means people will not be able to continue to rely on traditional sources of fish. Young people need to become flexible about the fish they eat and start learning about other methods of fish production, such as fish farming.
‘The advantage for young people is their readiness to adapt to change,’ says Dr Bell.
More generally, Dr Bell says, young people can make sure that the way they use natural resources is as environmentally friendly as possible. This will reduce stress on ecosystems and help the ecosystems to better adapt to the effects of climate change.
For more information, please contact Rose Maebiru, SPC Human Development Adviser (Youth), phone +687 26 01 97 or e-mail
, or Tione Chinula, SPC Human Development Programme Advocacy and Communications Officer, phone +687 26 01 57 or e-mail