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Koreans share climate research

Monday 2 February 2015 | Published in Regional


SUVA – The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Fiji has recently hosted some of their leading scientists to share research into how new climate change technology could help Pacific nations cope with the effects of global warming.

The Koreans are hoping to help Pacific nations cope with predicted rising sea levels, increased frequency of extreme weather, coastal erosion, health concerns and seeking alternative energy sources.

The President of the Korean Research Institute of Ships and Ocean Engineering, Sang-hyun Suh, says Pacific nations need assistance with climate solutions.

He says over the past ten years Korea has developed new ocean thermal energy conversion technologies.

“This is the first step. Hopefully in five years it is our plan to set up a kind of pilot plant or system to generate some practical amount of electric power.

“The World Health Organisation’s environmental health specialist in Fiji, Dr Rok-ho Kim says the Korean government is hosting the Green Climate Fund and is very interested in playing a more prominent role in global climate negotiations. He welcomes Korea’s engagement in the Pacific.

“And also it looks like some Korean engineering technology is looking for some opportunity to apply their technology to the Pacific which is actually a win-win – it’s good for the Pacific Islanders and also good for maybe Korean technology development.”

Dr Kim says if Pacific Island countries change their energy source away from diesel power to renewable energy sources there will be an improvement in climate related health concerns.

“The most direct impact is the reduction of the asthma, lung diseases and cardiovascular diseases.

“These conditions are well known to be related to air pollution, particularly the particulate matter produced by diesel engines.”

Dr Kim says global warming and increased carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to weather conditions that suit mosquitos.

Together with increasing populations, it means communicable diseases like dengue are spreading more rapidly.

He says non communicable diseases are also being influenced by climate change as sea level rise ruins local crops and fresh water supplies leading to poorer diets of imported food.

Both Dr Kim and the SPC’s Dr Cyprien Bosserelle are concerned about hospitals located near coasts– such as in Solomon Islands and Tonga – being vulnerable to coastal erosion.

Dr Bosserelle says some of his work is being used by the Tongan government as it considers relocating the hospital to a safer area .

“The issue comes when we have urban communities that are installed really close to the ocean. And they are exposed more, they are more vulnerable to that coastal erosion.

“When you have coastal erosion, your beach disappears. And when your beach disappears you get extremely vulnerable to things like coastal inundation. And if you don’t have a beach you are also extremely vulnerable to sea level rise.”

Dr Bosserelle says a lot of scientific work is being done to understand the effects of climate change and finding creative solutions to protect the islands and communities on the coast.

He says the workshop with the Korean research workshop is a good example of scientists working together to reduce the Pacific’s vulnerability to climate change.

- Pacific Dateline