Kaniva News commentary

The news that Tonga and other Pacific Island nations will have months to prepare for cyclones is welcome.

As Kaniva News reported yesterday, a team of climate scientists from the University of Newcastle in Australia and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand have developed a prediction model that could improve early warnings.

Many parts of Tonga are still suffering from the effects of Cyclone Harold, which struck the kingdom in April, causing widespread devastation.

The new model will generate predictions for the number of cyclones in each country and territory, up to four months before the start of the tropical cyclone season.

The predictions will be updated and available for free on the Long-Range Tropical Cyclone Outlook for the Southwest Pacific website, www.tcoutlook.com.

The Southwest Pacific tropical cyclone season typically runs from November to April.

Tropical cyclones account for 76 per cent of disasters across the Southwest Pacific region, and since 1950, have claimed the lives of nearly 1,500 people and significantly affected the lives of another 3.1 million.

Dr Andrew Magee from the University of Newcastle said the new outlook would be vital to ensuring more effective disaster management.

He said if the predictions helped reduce the risk of disaster, they could save lives.

“Tropical cyclones are erratic and every season is different,” Dr Magee said.

“This makes it difficult for island nations and territories to prepare in the weeks and months before the official start of the tropical cyclone season.

“Our tropical cyclone guidance for Pacific Island nations and territories will improve early warnings and support preparations ahead of the tropical cyclone season.

“This will allow government and aid agencies to prepare enough supplies for the season ahead and will mean there is more time for decision makers to communicate with communities and allow for sufficient planning.”

More work on a bigger scale

However, Dr Magee has warned that climate change will make Island  nations like Tonga more vulnerable to tropical cyclones.

Rising sea levels and other climate-change related phenomena are now part of everyday life in Tonga.

So while the improved early warning system is more than welcome, action on a much larger scale is needed.

The work of Dr Magee and his colleagues will make it easier to predict cyclones and give people time to prepare for them, but what is still  needed a is concerted global effort to make sure the situation and the danger posed by cyclones and global warming do not become even more grave.

As a recent report suggests, however, it is time that the global community takes action and commits itself to taking serious action to fight climate change before it is too late.

“Combating the environmental crisis is not the work of one government or international organisation alone,” the report, by former UN officer and Canadian policy analyst Saber Salem, says.

“It requires collective action by diverse groups such as governments, multilateral organisations, multinational corporations and the general public.”

Salem said the crisis has been exacerbated by President Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Agreement on climate change, which caused widespread concern in the Pacific.

“The US, China and India are some of the biggest polluters in the world. If these nations do not commit themselves to climate change and cut their carbon emissions to the atmosphere, the lesser polluters will justify their polluting actions and continue with the business as usual,” Salem said.

“For example, Pacific leaders have time and again appealed to Australia ‘to do everything possible to achieve a rapid transition from coal to energy sources that do not contribute to climate change.’

“However, as coal is at the heart of Australia’s ‘economic growth’ the current government has not taken any tangible actions to reduce coal emissions.

“Climate change is no longer primarily a scientific or technological challenge, but a political, social and economic one.

“Unless the global community establishes a strong political will with a strong leadership, environmental crisis will remain unaddressed and the Pacific will continue to bear the brunt of extreme impact of climate change.”

The main points

  • The news that Tonga and other Pacific Island nations will have months to prepare for cyclones is welcome.
  • As Kaniva News reported yesterday, a team of climate scientists from the University of Newcastle in Australia and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand have developed a prediction model that could improve early warnings.

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