Dr. Morgan Wairiu deputy director of PaCE-SD, 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. Photo: Dr. Morgan Wairiu.
Dr Morgan Wairiu is a Pacific Climate Change expert, who is the Deputy Director at the University Of The South Pacific’s, PaCE-SD. He was one of the lead authors in the 2018, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5 °C, Special report. This was a distinguished role for the humble Solomon Islander who has served the Pacific with over 25 year’s experience in climate change and resilient development.
This year, Dr Wairiu has been selected as the coordinating lead author for the “Small Islands” chapter in the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (IPCC AR6). The IPCC releases the assessment reports every five years, with the most recent one (IPCC AR5) released in 2014. Dr Wairiu would be coordinating and guiding a number of authors within the “Small Islands” chapter of the sixth assessment report.
Growing up in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, Dr Wairiu’s passion for the environment began early in his upbringing. 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 surrounding environment, 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 in the University of Papua New Guinea. After graduating in Agriculture, he returned to Solomon Islands and served his people 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. Completing his Ph.D. he 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 the tensions 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 the University Of The South Pacific 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 shows the drive and inspiration that has motivated the success of that young boy from Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands
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. This possibility cuts at the heart of Dr Wairui’s early formative years, growing up in his village and his boarding school supported by the lush and rich vegetation in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. He fondly recalls his early years in boarding school where students learnt resilience and self-sufficiency by tending to food gardens and fishing for seafood. These ecosystems which support the survival of Pacific people are under threat.
In essence the threat of rising global temperatures on Pacific ecosystems is not only a scientific analysis but a lived reality for Dr Wairiu, as well as for many people in the Pacific.
This is one of the reasons why Dr Wairiu had 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 stated “The world needs to take a moral stand, this is a humanity issue, more than science, the economy or anything else”
The Pacific is well informed and updated with the caliber of experience and scientific depth provided by Dr Wairiu. This is especially considering Dr Wairiu’s extensive experience and understanding as a Pacific Islander who has lived, survived and thrived within the ecosystems, the culture and the people that are now under threat from Climate Change.