Hope for Palau
The small island state Palau in the Pacific is strongly affected by climate change. Nevertheless, President Surangel Whipps strongly believes that there is hope. The hope is in the young people and a strong cooperation across national borders.
- It is amazing to see Statsraad Lehmkuhl and the young people here in Palau. Being a small island and a “hostage” to fossil fuels, it is inspiring to see how you use the wind and our renewable energy to power big sailing ships. It demonstrates to our children and young people the importance of our oceans and how we must protect them to pass them on to future generations, President Whipps says.
- When ships like this are going around the world, teaching our young people, coming up with ideas of how to make a difference, that is what’s going to change the world. That is going to make us better, President Whipps says.
For the island nation Palau in the western Pacific, the impact of climate change become more and more noticeable. Palau faces challenges of sea level rise, increased water temperature, coral bleaching and typhoons that are occurring to an increasing extent.
- We did not use to get typhoons, but now we do. Typhoons are destructive. Our homes were not built to endure them.
One of the problems that has increased significantly in recent years is plastic pollution.
- I was just out in a boat on Sunday and I saw a lot of debris floating. It did not use to be this way, President Whipps says.
Three different conversions of currents meet around Palau. This means that a lot of debris ends up here.
- We live in one ocean, but sometimes people forget that what they do far away from us, still affects us. Unfortunately, when people use the ocean as a garbage bin, we get to see those impacts here in Palau.
Jellyfish Lake is the home to millions of jellyfish. It is also the island´s most popular underwater attraction. The last twenty years the jellyfish have disappeared completely on two different occasions, each lasted for three years.
- It has a big impact on our tourist industry. People come to see the jellyfish and it is not there.
Other impacts of climate change on Palau are coral bleaching, erosion of the coastlines and inundation of the island´s taro swamps.
- This affects our agriculture and our food security. The other thing that we see is dwindling fish stocks because of the impact of higher heat ion the ocean. The fish move away from Palau because of the heat. This all affects our lives, our economy and our future. It is important to promote sustainable use of our resources so that we can at least try to turn the tide.
Despite the impacts of climate change, the president strongly believes that there is hope.
- At the United Nations Climate Change Conference last year, I used the term: You might as well bomb us! Because we are already being hit by the typhoons, sea level rise, coral bleaching and the jellyfish being impacted. It is destroying our economy and it is destroying our environment. Why give us slow torture, we might as well give up right now, he says.
- Or, let us all, get together as nations, as a people, as a world, as global citizens. We must work together across national borders. Because we can do it. If we make choices every day to use less fossil fuels and to reduce our footprints on this planet, we will make a difference. The big challenge is that we are fighting the time. It is a matter of time.
The president hopes that by 2030, the planet is on the traction of keeping the temperature rise below 1.5 degrees.
- I know they are saying that we are going to overshoot it, but I believe that it is hope. The hope is in the young people
Palau is sending five students to join the next voyage to Yokohama in Japan.
I was looking at the top mast and I said; Wow, if they get to climb that and are able to raise that sail, that would be fantastic. What an experience! Learning to sail and learning about the oceans.
I hope that by being around different people, sharing ideas will make them some back to contribute to saving and protecting our oceans and using them sustainably, President, Surangel Whipps says.