Special Report on Oceans and Ice

Today the IPCC released a special report on Oceans and the Cryosphere – meaning the ice cover at high altitudes and at the poles.

We’ll be honest, it looks bleak. Unless we phase out fossil fuels, we’re looking at extensive ecosystem loss, water stress and potentially hundreds of millions of people displaced due to sea level rise. 

Who of these ‘hundreds of millions’ are going to be affected the most and soonest?

According to scientists’ assessment, the areas most vulnerable to extreme weather events today will also be the hardest hit tomorrow. The livelihoods of low-lying coastal communities are already impacted and even if warming is limited to 1.5 degrees they face further risks.

On Tigtabon Island, south of the Philippines, residents have already noticed the retreating shoreline. Theirs is a story of constant battle at the hands of fossil fuel induced climate impacts – a battle to save fishing income, seaweed farming and land on which the live. This documentary shares their story and what the reality found by the recent IPCC special report truly means.

A group of teens use a shallow net to catch fish at the port of Tigtabon island. Photo: Kathleen Lei Limayo

“Before, the sea was still 50 meters away from our houses even during high tides.  Now, the sea is only 35 meters away from the shore.”

– Jimmy Manglabi (Fisherman and seaweed farmer)

But as the sea rises and storms strengthen, so do the frontline communities of ocean and ice that stand to lose the most. The Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are both rapidly losing ice as the regions warm, Asia and the Pacific are facing permanent land loss and salt water damage. However, the communities that call these regions home are not resigning to defeat, and neither should we.

“Apart from subsistence fishery, agriculture and commercial fishing are the main sectors that contribute to economic growth in the Pacific – all of which are threatened because of the  unabated use of fossil fuels. This has been an ongoing battle against polluters like our neighbours, Australia, but the Pacific will not back down.”

– Joseph Sikulu, Pacific Campaigner at 350.org. 

Frontline communities are building resilience and shaping their own narrative despite the bleak science – a narrative of a people that refuse to be displaced. In 2018, two indigenous women from different ends of the ocean connected their islands with a story of how large and yet how interdependent our world is.

Rise: From One Island to Another” was a poetic expedition between two islanders, one from the Marshall Islands and one from Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), connecting their realities of melting glaciers and rising sea levels. Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner and Aka Niviâna use their poetry to showcase the linkages between their homelands in the face of climate change.

If the recent IPCC special report on Oceans and the Cryosphere drives home the absolute necessity of phasing out fossil fuels, then the poem ‘Rise: From One Island to Another” sparks the necessary emotion needed for more people to take action. The science is clear: the age of fossil fuels must end.

We need everyone joining this movement to end that age. So find a strike near you to join this Friday, September 27.

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