According to a recent poll, almost a quarter of Britons are ‘unconcerned’ about climate change. Yes, we have more extreme weather – but once this passes, we have a tendency to move on. It’s human nature. Given that its effects aren’t yet felt on a daily basis in the UK, it can be challenging to highlight just how urgent the situation is. For my family, however, the urgency is all too clear.

Whilst I now reside in Glasgow as an Environmental Scientist at the University of the West of Scotland, I’m originally from Papua New Guinea; the largest of the Pacific Islands. It’s a region that is commonly known as the “Blue Pacific” - a historic term which, distressingly, has become something of a prophecy - as my home gradually sinks due underneath the rising ocean.

Climate change has drastically affected the lives of people living on these islands. Rising sea levels are causing salt water to enter fresh water supplies, creating very real concerns about water shortages. Flooding, cyclones, storms and life-threatening levels of heat have become normal, destroying homes and gardens.

The change in weather has an impact on food production, with a deadly tag team of salt water and droughts causing farmland to become salinated. Land erosions due to heavy rain and flooding have affected our infrastructure  causing our government to spend money that it simply doesn’t have - on a constant cycle of repair work.

The climate crisis is affected our health too, with increases in cholera, typhoid, malaria, and dengue. The impact on animals and plants can’t be understated. Habitats are being destroyed, and animals are already dying. As our islands disappear beneath the waves, many more will lose their lives. Some species will die out completely.

It’s not only animals at risk of losing their homes. Some of the 7,500 islands that make up the region are in imminent danger of sinking into the sea. Over the next few decades, many will be swallowed up by the ocean. This has already forced people living on some smaller island nations to leave their homes and move to foreign lands. On a recent visit to Papua New Guinea I was shocked by how quickly the shoreline had moved inwards in my hometown, Lae, compared to my last trip there. Affected less by the climate crisis, however, does not mean unaffected.

Each of our thousands of islands has its own unique identity. Its own customs, and wildlife. They’re all rich with history and sights, which will soon only exist through videos and photographs. Indigenous civilisations, which have existed for thousands of years, will be forced to uproot and move elsewhere. For many of these countries, this fate is unavoidable. Their desire simply to exist, to grow old in the only home they’ve known will go unfulfilled.

Back in my adopted new home of the UK, we are not immune to a similar fate, as we’ve seen in recent adverse weather. We must pay attention to what is happening now if we are to prevent the climate crisis from becoming a climate catastrophe.

Dr Yalinu Poya is a Lecturer in Environmental Science at the University of the West of Scotland