Cyclones in the Pacific: A call to action


A mother and her children stand in front of what remains of their home in Vanuatu. Tropical cyclones have intensified in recent years, affecting a number of Pacific Island countries, including  Vanuatu. Picture: SUPPLIED



THE Pacific has been hit by a series of devastating cyclones this year, causing immense damage to communities and infrastructure in several countries. The most recent of these storms, Cyclone Kevin and Cyclone Judy, struck Vanuatu one after the other in early March, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

Reports from relevant authorities reveal that over 250,000 people in Vanuatu were affected by Cyclone Kevin, which is a little over 80 per cent of the total population.

The storm had also disrupted essential services, including power, water and communication networks, leaving many communities isolated and vulnerable. The effects of Cyclone Kevin and Cyclone Judy were felt across Fiji as well with strong winds, heavy rainfall and intensive flooding.

In the recent years, the Pacific has been hit by a series of powerful cyclones, including Cyclone Gita in 2018 and Cyclone Harold in 2020. These storms have caused significant damage and
loss of life, particularly in small island states, where communities are often more vulnerable to the impact of extreme weather events due to their limited resources and infrastructure.

The root cause of these cyclones is undoubtedly climate change. Rising global temperatures are causing more frequent and intense weather events, including cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons. These storms not only cause direct damage to infrastructure and property, but also have far-reaching economic, social and environmental consequences, including loss of life, displacement and increased food insecurity.

As climate change continues to exacerbate extreme weather events around the world, it is essential that we take urgent action to mitigate its impact and support those affected by these natural disasters. Global efforts addressing climate change in Paris Agreement:

  • The Paris Agreement is an international agreement aimed at limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It was adopted in 2015 by 196 parties, including the United States, China and India, and entered into force in 2016. Under the agreement, countries set their own
    emissions reduction targets, which are reviewed every five years.
  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): An international treaty signed in 1992, aiming to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. It provides a framework for international cooperation to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The UNFCCC holds annual Conference of Parties (COP) where countries discuss and negotiate climate policies and agreements. The most recent COP27 took place in Egypt.
  • Carbon pricing: An economic policy aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on carbon in the form of carbon tax, where emitters pay a fee for each ton of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) they emit, or a cap-and-trade system, where a cap is set on emissions and companies trade allowances to emit. Several countries including Canada and China have implemented
    these policies.

We must also acknowledge the role that global inequality plays in exacerbating the impact of these natural disasters, Small Island states and developing countries are often hit the hardest by extreme weather events, despite contributing very little to the global greenhouse gas emissions. We must ensure that these communities are not left behind and are supported in their efforts to build more resilient and sustainable societies.

The recent cyclones in the Pacific serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need to take action on climate change. As we continue to face increasingly frequent and intense weather events, we must work together to reduce our carbon footprint, build more resilient infrastructure and support vulnerable communities in their efforts to adapt and thrive in a changing climate.

Adaptation measures must be implemented to help vulnerable communities cope with the impact of extreme weather events. These may include building more resilient infrastructure, developing early warning systems and strengthening social safety nets to ensure that those most affected by the storms have access to the support that they need.

In the face of the devastating cyclones in the Pacific, we cannot afford to sit idly by – we must act now to mitigate the impact of climate change and support those affected. As the saying goes, “we are all in the same boat”, but it’s time to ensure that the boat is sturdy enough to help us weather the storm ahead.

*Nistha Kanti is a second-year journalism student at The University of the South Pacific’s Laucala Campus, Suva, Fiji.

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