Discussing climate change in New Caledonia

17 June 2015

Tapugao Falefou
Tapugao Falefou

University of Waikato doctoral student Tapugao Falefou has recently returned from New Caledonia where he was invited to attend and speak at a workshop on climate change organised by the Institute for Research and Development (IRD) of New Caledonia.

"I was asked to participate in a 'Regional Resilience & Climate Change and its Consequences (R2C3)' workshop held in Ouvea across three days during April. It was designed to encourage climate change discussion between Pacific communities," says Tapugao.

Tapugao's doctoral research, which looks at the impacts of climate change and sea level rise in his home country of Tuvalu, is relevant to the climate change problems currently being experienced in Ouvea. He was accompanied on the trip by his doctoral supervisors, Associate Professors John Campbell and Michael Goldsmith.

Joined by representatives of various Pacific communities, the group were taken to view various parts of the island which have been affected by coastal erosion, and Tapugao had numerous opportunities to speak about his own research, including delivering a presentation to a Protestant School in Ouvea's Central District. They also spent some time working with the IRD in Noumea, conversing with a range of academics and interested members of the public.

"The trip was really useful to me in my doctoral studies. I was able to observe the views and thoughts of the people in Ouvea about the challenges they face from the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. The presentations from representatives from Tuamotu and Kiribati also provided useful insights," says Tapugao.

Tapugao's thesis takes into consideration the profound threat to the people of Tuvalu which is that low lying atolls such as Tuvalu may become uninhabitable and eventually disappear by the turn of this century, due to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.

"In light of this scientific prediction, my research endeavours to examine the social and cultural issues pertaining to Tuvalu's cultural and national identity. I am looking at what the people of Tuvalu say about the impact of climate change and sea level rise and how they feel about migrating or relocating to another place. The peoples' connectedness to their land is central to my research," says Tapugao.

"Attending this workshop in Ouvea was a great opportunity to share my research findings and the theoretical concepts that I am working on in my thesis," he adds.