Climate change in the pacific from a Swedish point of view


“My name is Linnea and I come from Sweden”.

That is probably the sentence I've said the most this past week. Introducing who I am and where I'm from is an important thing at a conference like COP, especially since we're from so many different cultures, with at least as many experiences, but also because I want to spread the word of WAGGGS.

Where I'm from is also relevant for this blog. Sweden is quite big, placed in Scandinavia, and known to some for things like ABBA, IKEA and Swedish meatballs. Our climate consists of cold but no too cold winters, warm but not to warm summers, rainy falls and wonderful green springs. Too keep it short: nothing is really “too much”. The climate doesn't affect us in an extreme way, and nor does climate change.

Yes, we've had a few unusually cold winters the past years, but that could well be a coincidence. We have no real floods, no earthquakes and few storms. Because of that fact, climate change for me is something abstract, something I read about in the magazines and something I can't see in front of me in real life. I guess that is the case for many others Swedes, as well as Scandinavians. Sweden is a developed country, there is no corruption, we have good health services and schools, everything is running smoothly.

That's is why a few cold, hard facts from COY hit me really hard. By accident I walked in to a workshop about Climate Change in the Pacific. To be honest I didn't really know what the Pacific Ocean was before hand (geography isn't my strong side), and that they are so affected by Climate Change was something that I had ever heard about. What I learned through the workshop was that there is a lot of smaller islands in the Pacific, such as Samoa, Cook Islands and Solomon Islands, many of them considered to be paradise islands, but since the climate has started to change that might not be the case in a few years.

Sea levels are rising because of increasing levels of CO2 in our atmosphere, and that causes a lot of problems for the island states. Not only do the higher king yides, i.e. when the sea level is at its highest, destroy things because of lack of protection, but the costal erosion forces people to move their houses, and there is also a lack of water in many of the islands.

In the most extreme cases there is actually a possible threat that a whole island will sink in a time frame of only 20 years. To be faced with a fact like that, coming from such a safe country as I do, was a shock. Imagine that your country just disappears! Climate refugees, which was also a new phrase for me, will have to have somewhere to go. Homes will be destroyed. Life will be forced to change.

I hope that the negotiators at COP17, maybe above all privileged countries like mine, will think about the islands in the Pacific. We can't afford to loose a whole island, even if it's a small one in an ocean you've never heard of.

Simon Matafai is a Youth Delegate for New Zealand, and has done some amazing work in his home country Samoa. Since it's a very religious country, many have not really believed in the facts of Climate Change, and that something  has to be done. Simon found a solution;  he wrote songs to be sung at church, but with climate-related lyrics! The WAGGGS youth delegation spoke to him about it.

You can watch a video of Simon and his choir Fetuao Youth performing the song Dubula here: The lyrics are about working together for a sustainable future.

Linnea Wedelin (Sweden)

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