In the Cyclone Territory, the threats are real

Fiji Sun Editorial

Two years ago, Tropical Cyclone Winston, Fiji’s first Category 5 Cyclone, the strongest ever to make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere, struck Fiji with devastating force.

It claimed 44 lives, destroyed homes, crops and infrastructure and left 540,000 people affected.

Prime Minister Josiah Voreqe Bainimarama led a moment of silence on February 20 at the Commonwealth Education Ministers Conference at Sheraton Fiji Resort, Denarau, Nadi, to remember those who died. It also reminded us of the constant danger that we face with extreme weather events because of climate change.

We have just gone past a series of weather events that brought a lot of wind, rain, and flooding in some parts of the country.

Tropical Cyclone Gita

Tropical Cyclone Gita hit only some islands in Southern Lau. But Gita could easily have become another Winston if it had tracked further north.

These wild weather patterns highlight the importance of taking climate change seriously. Just because we did well as the presidency of COP23 in Bonn, Germany, last November, does not mean we can relax and become complacent in our climate change campaign. Bonn might have gone but our leadership is not over, as the Prime Minister reminded us.

We should maintain the momentum. We should definitely make sure strong platforms are set before we hand over the presidency to Poland for COP24 in December.

Climate Change Challenge

Climate change is real, and no one is exempt or immune to its impact.

So, as we remember the victims of Cyclone Winston, let us not forget that we live in cyclone territory and that we are likely to by visited by more cyclones. Maybe even this year.

Our push to reduce global warming is important here because scientists say cyclones are formed from simple thunderstorms at certain times of the year when the sea temperature warms.

It is said that they suck up vast quantities of water through evaporation, which is dumped as torrential rain. Flooding, property damage and loss of life result.

Global Warming

Scientists have long predicted that global warming will make cyclones more destructive, and some say the evidence for this may already be visible.

They say warmer oceans add to the raw fuel on which cyclones feed, and higher sea levels boost storm surges that may overcome coastal defences.

We have seen the impact of global warming in the sea level rise here. Some coastal settlements have been relocated as a result.

While we are concerned with this, our biggest fear is being hit by another cyclone similar to or more powerful than Winston because of the devastation it poses on people’s lives and the potential damage to our economy.

Let us be relentless in our climate change campaign.

Let us continue the COP23 momentum and follow and support the Prime Minister’s lead.

-Under Special Arrangement with Fiji Sun

Photo Caption: The devastating effects of Tropical Cyclone 2016

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