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World in disunion: Climate change and the Rugby World Cup

 

The effects of climate change are being felt around the world and the Pacific islands are among the worst affected. But unless greenhouse gas emissions fall, the consequences in the coming decades will be far worse than anything seen so far.

Fiji, Samoa and Tonga face an onslaught as the world warms. Hotter and more acidic oceans, due to higher levels of carbon dioxide, kill coral reefs upon which fish populations depend, while rising sea levels will swallow land, increase flooding and salinate water supplies. The region is also likely to experience more category 3 to 5 storms, such as last year’s Cyclone Gita which was the strongest tropical cyclone to hit Tonga since records began.

Together these climate change impacts threaten to undermine the islands’ economies, deter tourists, making life increasingly tough and driving young people away, putting strain on the countries’ ability to field competitive rugby teams. Researchers warn of mass migration from the islands as a result of climate change in the coming decades.

Alongside the Pacific island countries at the Rugby World Cup are some of the countries most responsible for the climate crisis.

Major greenhouse gas polluters like the US, Australia, the hosts Japan, Russia, Canada, South Africa and the European nations will play at the tournament, to the tune of a world in union. But few, if any, of the most polluting competitors have credible plans to cut their emissions to safe levels - suggesting the World Cup’s theme song is just an empty promise.

It is not too late to prevent dangerous climate change and to save the future for the Pacific islands, and the rest of the world. But it requires immediate action to cut emissions.