Photo: idiz/Shutterstock

The First Casualties of Climate Change

by Ian MacKenzie Dec 27, 2006

My friend has a sense of humour.

For Christmas, he gifted me a darkly hilarious “Global Warming Mug” – a mug featuring the world’s continents in all their glory. Except there’s a catch. When you pour in a hot liquid the heat alters the continents, revealing the edges of the world that will be swallowed in the future due to unabated climate change and rising sea levels.

My initial thought was the wonderfully depressing feeling the mug would invoke with every morning coffee, but then I realized it was an effective reminder; a “call to action” that climate change isn’t just going to go away if everyone ignores it.

If fact, the first casualties of rising sea levels appear to be the people of the Carteret Islands – living among the most beautiful and most remote corners of the world. These islands also happen to sit at their highest only 170cm above sea level. (watch video)

“The Carterets are a portent of catastrophe to come – not only for the other low lying atolls of the South Pacific, but for low-lying coastal communities across the world, from Bangladesh to New Orleans.

If environmental scientists and campaigners are correct, the rising seas are the result of global warming caused by the release of greenhouse gasses.

Some time next year the islanders will become the world’s first climate-change refugees; within a few years, barring a dramatic reversal, their home will literally go down in history as the first inhabited territory in the world to be swallowed up by global warming.”

Damn, that’s depressing.

But luckily, if anything, 2006 will be remembered as the year global warming finally hit the mainstream. No longer can the average citizen go about their day without having an opinion on climate change and whether humans have something to do about it.

So I’ve had enough bad news. If Al Gore taught me anything, it’s that we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. Says Future Sea, a grassroots activist group dedicated to raising public awareness about climate change:

“Even though most serious effects of global warming are primarily going to affect future generations, the actions taken over the next decades will profoundly affect the world in which our children and grandchildren will live.

The challenge is to make the long term and gradual impacts of global warming the immediacy needed to help people make important decisions today.”

This year I bought a bike and ride it almost every day. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s certainly a start. Now with the year almost at an end, if you make any resolutions for yourself and the future, pledge to do your part in saving the world.

For a daily reminder, I suggest picking up a Global Warming Mug.

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What have you done this year to combat climate change? Whether large or small, please share in the comments (seriously, it’s inspiring).

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