Australian Red Cross aid worker Rebecca McNaught has led the way in integrating climate change into the work of the international Red Cross Red Crescent Movement for the past eight years.
Having worked in places as diverse as the tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu to the Middle East, Rebecca's current assignment is much closer to home. Rebecca runs the Vanuatu-based Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre. Working in partnership with national Red Cross societies of the Pacific, Rebecca is finding new ways to incorporate climate change factors into disaster risk reduction activities.
"There has been a huge surge of awareness on the issue of climate change but I think that part of my role is to really work out what does this mean operationally and tangibly," says Rebecca.
With the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events and disasters on the rise, the governments of the Pacific take the impact of climate change seriously.
Rebecca is now taking a leading role with the Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre to work with national societies across the Pacific to help them meet their commitments. One of the most important tasks in raising awareness about climate change is getting the message right.
"I have a colleague in the Solomon Islands who said they work with communities where people haven't seen cars and they haven't seen factories, so how do you explain that cars and factories are causing climate change? You have to contextualise your messages."
Interpreting information about unusual or extreme weather predictions gives Red Cross national societies the opportunity to target more appropriate programs for local communities, from checking disaster containers and making sure there is enough equipment ready to deal with floods or droughts, to running radio campaigns on wise water use and flood preparedness.
One Climate Centre project is Cloud Nasara, an awareness-raising animation film
designed to explain the El Nino and La Nina phenomena. The animation aims to assist communities to understand and better prepare for extreme weather such as floods orcyclones.
The launch of the film has been so popular that donors have committed to translating the film into every national language in the Pacific.
Photo: Rebecca McNaught is working with communities to better prepare for and cope with extreme climate events like Cyclone Evan, which are becoming increasingly linked with climate change. (Samoan Red Cross)