The Marshall Islands and other low-lying island nations appealed to the U.N. Security Council on Friday to recognize climate change as an international security threat that jeopardizes their very survival.
Tony deBrum, a minister and assistant to the Marshall Islands president, said the island nations are facing opposition from Security Council permanent members Russia and China and a group of more than 130 mainly developing nations, which argue that the U.N.'s most powerful body is the wrong place to address climate change.
DeBrum told reporters after a closed Security Council meeting on the "Security Dimensions of Climate Change," organized by Britain and Pakistan, that he hopes more council members will be convinced that "this is a security issue and not just an economic-political-social issue."
The low-lying islands, which are already being inundated with sea water, want the council to bring its "political weight" to the issue and help their countries survive, for example, by harnessing new technologies and ensuring alternative energy supplies, he said.
DeBrum said it was "ironic, bizarre perhaps" that 35 years after he went before the Security Council to seek the independence of the Marshall Islands he was back again "to appeal for the survival of my country."
He said climate change has already taken a toll on the Marshall Islands. Wells have filled with salt water, making drinking water scarce and in turn affecting food production. One small island in a lagoon is now under water, and coastlines are being eroded.
The impact of climate change is also causing migration to other islands, as well as to Australia and the United States, he said.
In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Rachel Kyte, the World Bank's vice-president for sustainable development, said that since the council's last discussion of climate change "the sense of immediacy and urgency has increased."
"The question is: Do you want to keep on cataloguing all of the terrible things that are going to happen if we continue on a business as usual track, or are we actually going to start doing anything about it?" she said
Kyte said she explained to the council on Friday that "it is possible to stop the worst from happening but it will require real, concerted policy action globally at every country level." More