Climate Change not the only challenge for small island states | Sustainable Population Australia

Climate Change not the only challenge for small island states

High population densities are as much a challenge for small island states as is climate change, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).

World Environment Day is June 5, and this year aims to raise awareness about the impact of climate change on small islands states around the world.

National president of SPA, Ms Jenny Goldie, says many small island states have high population densities, which increase the pressure on already limited resources, particularly fresh water.

She noted that regionally, many small island developing states had worrying densities including:

Maldives with 1164 people per square kilometre (km2); Nauru 621/km2; Mauritius 603/km2; Tuvalu 448/km2; and Marshall Islands 326/km2.

“Projected sea-level rise may drive people from these islands well before century’s end,” says Ms Goldie. “But unsustainable population levels may get in ahead of rising sea-levels.

“Indeed, the population of the Maldives has already started to fall slightly with a negative population growth rate of -0.11 per cent.  People are starting to leave to escape such unsustainably crowded conditions. This is well before the islands have gone underwater, which they will, given the islands are a mere 1.8 metres above sea-level on average.”

Ms Goldie says in the case of the other five nations, any population growth is unsustainable given the already high densities, yet their populations are growing at rates between 0.4 per cent annually (Mauritius) and 2.5 per cent (Nauru).

“Australian aid, particularly family planning and contraception, is critical in helping these small states stop population growth as soon as possible. It is in the islanders’ interests, but also in Australia’s, for it is we who will have to accommodate people in our region displaced by rising seas.

“On this World Environment Day, we have to remember that the Intergovernmental Panel’s latest report (AR5) has stated that one of the drivers of climate change is population growth,” she says. “Thus, while we rightfully worry about the effects of climate change, particularly on low-lying small island states, we must also recognise what drives climate change.”

Further information: Jenny Goldie 0401 921 453