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Issues of the Day A Warning from Nauru

In a New York Times Opinion piece I read several hours after writing my post on Al Gore's latest warning on climate change (July 20, 2011), President Marcus Stephen of  Nauru states, "I forgive you if you have never heard of Nauru — but you will not forgive yourselves if you ignore our story."

The very existence of Nauru, a south Pacific island just thirteen square kilometers in size, along with that of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands, is threatened by climate change, specifically by sea level rise. President Stephen warns,

Similar climate stories are playing out on nearly every continent, where a steady onslaught of droughts, floods and heat waves, which are expected to become even more frequent and intense with climate change, have displaced millions of people and led to widespread food shortages.

President Stephen, who also heads the Pacific Small Island Developing States regional group, offers a three-point plan for concerted international action to counter these trends:

First, the Security Council should join the General Assembly in recognizing climate change as a threat to international peace and security. It is a threat as great as nuclear proliferation or global terrorism. Second, a special representative on climate and security should be appointed. Third, we must assess whether the United Nations system is itself capable of responding to a crisis of this magnitude.

Stephen, a head of state whose country is on the front line of the climate change onslaught, appeals that "[t]he stakes are too high to implement these measures only after a disaster is already upon us… we are simply asking the international community to plan for the biggest environmental and humanitarian challenge of our time."

The message out of the south Pacific needs desperately to be heard in Washington, Beijing, Delhi, and Bonn – indeed everywhere.  

Marcus Stephen, On Nauru, a Sinking Feeling

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved