Confusion causes skepticism and policy paralysis

What outcomes should the world’s small island states that are congregating in Samoa realistically hope for at the conclusion of the conference in early September? These island states, joined at the hip by the shared vulnerabilities of climate change, economic and ecological sustainability, isolation and poverty have been clamouring for the world’s attention to alleviate their collective plight. The problems and issues they collectively and singly face are many, but we can safely expect the issue of climate change to dominate the discourse, as it always has over the past decade. Other serious problems that may or may not be related to climate change are likely to get less billing, although in reality they may require much more urgent attention. These, in our opinion, would be food, water and energy security and economic sustainability.

Climate change is for real. There is little disagreement on that, if any. All the disagreement is on its causes. The world is divided into those who believe that all climate change is anthropogenic – caused by the actions of mankind – and others who are of the firm opinion that climate change is a natural dynamic and has always been happening throughout history from the earliest times. Then there are also those who, quite reasonably, take a middle position: while it is natural, human effect has an effect on it. Most debate on what action needs to be taken on climate change has centered round the first contention – that climate change is primarily anthropogenic. This position has produced a vast body of knowledge and theory both in support and against. Thanks to the attention it has received in the global media, it has also produced factions with great vested interests. The plethora of theories that have been churned out is constantly challenged with great ferocity by opposing factions. This has created confusion enough to cause skepticism and policy paralysis among decision makers at the highest levels.

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• We Say is compiled and edited by Samisoni Pareti

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