Wansolwara News

Vol. 5 No. 2
June 2000

Page 8


on the Pacific Environment

Isikeli Sauliga looks at the changing patterns.

GOVERNMENTS of atoll islands in the region have been advised to consider resettling their people now as their livelihood is being threatened by the rise in sea levels. The head of the University of the South Pacific’s geography department, Dr Patrick Nunn, said this would greatly affect these small island nations because they were so low.

“Specifically those that are two to three metres above sea level,” he said. He said the reality of the situation was that the sea level was going to continue to rise, considering predictions which had said the sea level may rise by one metre at the end of this century. He added that resettling people “could be the last option’’.

Sea rise: Rise in sea level has been caused by a drastic increase in the melting of ice on land and the expansion of the sea due to thermal warming — the increase in temperature is the outcome of an increase in concentration of human enhanced greenhouse gases.

According to research, these gases eventually form a layer in the lower part of earth’s atmosphere which prevents radiation from the surface escaping into the outer atmosphere.

“We’ve pumped so many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere over the last 150 years that there is nothing we can do to stop what’s going to happen in the next 100 years,’’ Dr Nunn said.

“The earth’s climate is already responding and even if we stopped the emission of these gases tomorrow, the earth’s climate would still continue to get warm and the sea level will continue to rise for at least another 100 years.’’ Dr Nunn says it has been predicted that by the year 2100, temperatures would have risen across the earth by between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius. This would subsequently raise the sea level by between 15 and 95 cm.

Dr Nunn said a more serious problem that faced these atoll nations was erosion. “It’s very likely that some islands in the countries I’ve named will erode away completely and that’s a very serious problem. One that is of a great concern among the governments of those countries,” Dr Nunn said.

Samusoni Finikaso, a fisheries officer at Tuvalu’s Fisheries Department said flooding during high tide had now become common. “The old people say that in the past there was no flooding of coastal areas such as what is happening now which is the reason why roads were built next to the sea. “Now we can’t drive freely when it is high tide. This is the case in Funafuti, Nukufetau and Nukulaelae,” he said.

Greenpeace Pacific’s climate campaigner, Angie Heffernan, said the atoll islands with limited landmass were the most vulnerable to climate change.

Changes: “The climate scientists predicted that with the warming world we would have changes in weather patterns. Such as more storms, hurricanes and cyclones and in the last 10 years the region has seen an increase in cyclones, and the strength of cyclones as well,” she said.

She added that large industrialised countries which were responsible for emitting excessive greenhouse gases had to assist small island countries. “It is the responsibilities of the nations which have caused this to actually help island countries find alternative places to live in if they cannot live anymore on their islands,” she said.

She said Greenpeace had worked actively with regional governments to raisie awareness by providing scientific and policy advise. “The governments know what’s happening with climate change and we support and document their findings, and use them as a tool of persuading larger countries in considering the fate of these smaller island countries,” she said.

But she also warned that there was a need for small island countries to work together as a group in addressing the issue since it directly affected them. “Large countries often assess how smaller countries jointly address issues and they exploit opportunities of divisions, seen amongst smaller countries on important issues that concern their growth, at the expense of smaller island nations,” she said.

“Our advocacy work with regional governments continues to maintain the strongest possible positions in calling for global reductions of greenhouse gases by industrialised countries.”

“And it is our duty as inhabitants of these islands to pressure and apply it constantly on these giants if we are considerate in protecting our islands, our atols and our human well being,” she said.

File created: 3 June 2000
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