Dr. Morgan Wairiu of USP (first from right) is pictured with leaders, ministers and other diplomats and officials from the Pacific, New Zealand and the United Kingdom at Wiston House in Sussex in the UK.
A climate change expert, Dr Morgan Wairiu from The University of the South Pacific (USP) has been selected as the coordinating lead author for the “Small Islands” chapter in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (IPCC AR6).
The IPCC releases the assessment reports every five years, with the last report (IPCC AR5) released in 2014.
Dr Wairiu who holds the position of Deputy Director of USP’s Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PACE-SD), will be coordinating and guiding a number of authors within the “Small Islands” chapter of the sixth assessment report.
The humble Solomon Islander was one of the lead authors in the 2018 IPCC 1.5 °C, Special Report. This is a distinguished role for the climate change expert who has served the Pacific with over 25 years of experience in climate change and resilient development.
Growing up in Guadalcanal, Dr Wairiu’s passion for the environment began early as he recalls spending long hours outdoors exploring and enjoying his village surrounding.
In boarding school as a young boy, he learnt the importance of relying on his surroundings - its lush gardens for sustenance and rejuvenation.
These early experiences in his formative years solidified his interest in the environment, which led to an early tertiary education at the University of Papua New Guinea.
After graduating in Agriculture, he returned to Solomon Islands and worked in the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands in the research division focusing on soil and plant growth.
This proved crucial for Dr Wairiu because of the Solomon Islands logging industry, which coincided with his cultivated plant growth work. He went on to publish his findings in an international journal, while he secured a scholarship to complete his post graduate studies in the University of London, UK. This led to a Masters Degree in the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
After returning to serve in Solomon Islands for a number of years, Dr Wairiu moved on to Ohio State University, USA, to pursue his Ph.D. At that stage he was examining soil carbon dynamics.
Upon completing his Ph.D, Dr Wairiu returned to his village to be with his people for a year during the tensions of the early 2000s.
He was called by the Solomon Islands Government, not long after to take up the role of Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. Dr Wairiu later moved on to Waikato University as a visiting research fellow and then finally to USP at PaCE-SD. His progression and years of experience has culminated in his current work on Climate Change.
Dr Wairiu’s years of service and distinguished achievements show the drive and inspiration that has motivated the success of this young man from Guadalcanal.
With these innate experiences coupled with his passion for the Pacific, he helped author the IPCC 1.5 °C, Special report in 2018. The report was authored to assist countries in keeping the global average temperature below 1.5°C. Dr Wairiu highlighted the report as an assessment on what has been done and the feasibility of keeping the global average temperature below 1.5°C.
Dr Wairiu emphasised that the Pacific natural and human systems would face greater devastation if the global average temperature rises above 1.5°C.
“Unfortunately, the current aggregate emissions reductions by countries, indicate the possibility of the global temperature rising beyond 1.5°C to 3.7 °C. If current emission levels continue the Pacific would effectively lose its ecosystems and resources,” he stated.
In essence the threat of rising global temperatures on Pacific ecosystems is not only a scientific analysis but a reality for Dr Wairiu, as well as for many people in the Pacific.
This is one of the reasons why Dr Wairiu raised alarm bells last year, when he warned the Pacific that the parties in the Conference of Parties (COP) were not on track to keep global average temperatures below 1.5°C.
Dr Wairiu continues to highlight the need for greater action and urgency on Climate Change. He added that, “The world needs to take a moral stand, this is a humanity issue, more than science, the economy or anything else”.
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