Torres Strait Islander leaders and climate scientists have released a joint statement in response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. The statement urges all politicians to take immediate action to protect the Torres Strait from the impacts of climate change. The statement will be delivered in the coming weeks to politicians from all major parties.
According to Yessie Mosby, Torres Strait 8 claimant and Kulkalgal Traditional Owner, “Our old people were scientists in our cultural way. They taught us how to monitor, observe and respect nature, so that we can rely on her. For tens of thousands of years, the saltwater people of Zenadh Kes have lived in harmony with the land, sea and sky.
“We’ve always been able to read the seasons. We know when to expect certain fish or birds, when to plant and when to harvest. We know when to expect the monsoon season and the dry season but now it’s hard to read the weather – everything is unpredictable now.
“Scientists from around the world have confirmed what we already know – climate change is happening now. Here in the Torres Strait we see our island homes wash away, taking our loved ones’ remains with her due to sea level rise. We need urgent government action.”
According to Dr Simon Bradshaw, Climate Council Research Director, “The impacts of climate change on islands such as Warraber, Poruma, Masig, Boigu and Saibai are truly heartbreaking, causing not only loss of land and homes, but threatening thousands of years of culture and the deep connection of communities to their islands.
“Torres Strait Islanders have contributed almost nothing to the causes of climate change, yet are being hit first and hardest by its impacts. It is way past time for our decision makers to listen to those on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Only then do we truly understand what is at stake, and also recognise the strength and resilience of Torres Strait Islanders in responding to this crisis.
“The science is clearer than ever: the very survival of many of the Torres Strait Islands depends on Australia and the world doing everything possible to immediately accelerate the transition beyond fossil fuels, while at the same time providing far greater support to communities with adapting to changes that can no longer be avoided.”
The statement has been coordinated by the Our Islands Our Home campaign, a campaign led by Torres Strait Islanders to protect their island homes. As part of this campaign, eight claimants from the Torres Strait, also known as the #TorresStrait8, have brought a human rights complaint against the Australian Federal Government to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations over the Government’s inaction on climate change.
For interviews and media requests:
Signatories Yessie Mosby, Kabay Tamu and Dr Simon Bradshaw are available for interviews. To request an interview or photos/footage, please contact Lucy on 0417 387 516 or email@example.com
For more information visit https://ourislandsourhome.com.au/
Statement text (also attached):
Joint statement on climate change in the Torres Strait
Torres Strait Islanders are on the frontline of the climate crisis. As Torres Strait Islander leaders and Australian climate scientists, we urge all politicians to take immediate action to protect the Torres Strait from the impacts of climate change.
According to Yessie Mosby, Torres Strait 8 claimant and Masigilgal Traditional Owner, “erosion and sea level rise is affecting our island home (Masig). We are picking up our ancestors’ bones as if they are shells, due to inundation of our burial grounds.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has just released its Sixth Assessment Report: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. The report shows Torres Strait Island communities are already experiencing increased flood risk and water insecurity. Sea level rise has also undermined traditional coastal lands, including through the destruction of ancestral burial grounds. These impacts are predicted to intensify as low-lying islands of the Torres Strait face more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades (before mid-century).
Kabay Tamu, Torres Strait 8 claimant and Warraberalgal Traditional Owner, agrees climate impacts are already being experienced in the Torres Strait, “we watch the steady erosion of our coastlines, we witness our communities being inundated, infrastructure damaged, sea walls and flood defences breached, fresh water wells contaminated and plants and crops spoiled. Rising sea temperatures are also affecting the marine environments we rely on. We are witnessing more coral bleaching and ocean acidification, damaging the reefs and marine life that are vital for the ecosystem.”
Urgent action is needed to ensure Torres Strait Islanders can remain on their islands. We call on all politicians to:
- Fund adaptation programs that will allow Torres Strait communities to adapt to climate impacts
- Support Torres Strait communities to build community-owned renewable energy
- Commit to going 100% renewables in Australia in the next 10 years
- Transition away from fossil fuels as rapidly as possible through a just transition for workers
- Push the world to increase global ambition and do everything possible to limit warming to 1.5 degrees
Ned David, Chair, Gur A Baradharaw Kod Torres Strait Sea and Land Council
Yessie Mosby, Masigilgal Traditional Owner and Torres Strait 8 claimant
Daniel Billy, Warraberalgal Traditional Owner and Torres Strait 8 claimant
Kabay Tamu, Warraberalgal Traditional Owner and Torres Strait 8 claimant
Stanley Marama, Boigulgal Traditional Owner and Torres Strait 8 claimant
Keith Pabai, Boigulgal Traditional Owner and Torres Strait 8 claimant
Nazareth Fauid, Porumalgal Traditional Owner and Torres Strait 8 claimant
Ted Billy, Warraberalgal Traditional Owner and and Torres Strait 8 claimant
Professor Ian McNiven, Monash University
Professor Lesley Hughes, Distinguished Professor of Biology, Macquarie University and Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia
Emeritus Prof. Bruce Thom, Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists
Professor Jon Barnett, Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow in the School of Geography, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Melbourne University
Doctor Simon Bradshaw, Research Director, Climate Council
Authorised by Lucy Manne, 350.org Limited, Suite 201, 46-56 Kippax St, Surry Hills NSW 2010