ENVIRONMENT: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Tuvalu sinking? Much ado about nothing
, June 26, 2010
For at least the past 10 years, the small island-state of Tuvalu, located deep in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Australia, has been conducting a campaign against global warming, declaring that the islanders are the world's first "climate refugees" whose islands will be swallowed up by rising sea-levels.
This campaign has been remarkably successful. In 2002, Tuvalu announced that it would take legal action against the worst emitters of greenhouse gases, the United States and Australia.
In 2005, Lizzie Gabriel commented, "The country's area totals 25 km2
and is one of the world's most low-lying countries, with its highest point 5 metres above sea level. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that Tuvalu will be largely drowned under the rising sea levels within 50 years.
"Tuvalu is home to nearly 11,500 people, and many environmental activists around the world consider these people to be the world's first refugees of human-made global warming. The Tuvaluan Government considers relocation of its population as their only hope, but international borders mean few relocation options are available."
In 2007, the online edition of Germany's most famous magazine, Der Spiegel
, published an alarming report which described Tuvalu as "the islanders without an island" and asked: "What will become of Tuvalu's climate refugees?"
It reported that already 3,000 islanders had migrated to New Zealand, and that their number was growing, while Australia was hesitating to let these refugees into their country.
Another commentator said, "Tuvalu stands for the millions of climate refugees", and quoted Harald Welzer's book Klimakriege (Climate Wars)
, which described "Tuvalu as an example and warning for what is expected in the near future, but then with millions of climate refugees".
At last year's Copenhagen Climate Summit, Tuvalu's President demanded that the world freeze greenhouse gas emissions immediately to stabilise CO2 levels at 350ppm, instead of the 450ppm target put forward by the IPCC, and that global temperature rises be held to 1.5°C, not the IPCC target of 2°C.
He was so enthusiastically supported by many of the delegates present that over two days of the Copenhagen Summit were wasted in debate over this issue.
Also in Copenhagen, Tuvalu's representative, Ian Fry (an Australian), delivered what many considered to be the finest speech at the Summit when he said, "This is not just an issue for Tuvalu ... millions of people around the world are affected."
He added, "I want to have for the leaders an option to have a legally binding treaty.... I woke up this morning, and I was crying, and that's not easy for a grown man to admit. The fate of my country rests in your hands."
There have, however, been occasional voices which have dissented from these alarmist views. The University of Hawaii measurements since 1977 showed a negligible increase of only 0.07 mm per year over two decades, and found that sea levels fell three millimetres between 1995 and 1997.
Cliff Ollier from the School of Earth and Environment, University of WA, wrote in a paper published in July 2009, "If you ask Google for information on sea level, you get pages of claims that the Pacific Islands are sinking in the sea. If you Google "Tuvalu", you will get messages of impending doom. And yet the best factual data available show that the islands, including Tuvalu, are not sinking. Of course, the climate alarmists will keep this true information out of the literature as long as they can."
In his paper, Ollier cited data collected in Tuvalu by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology which showed that there had been no rise in sea levels in Tuvalu over the past 20 years.
These findings have been strikingly confirmed by two researchers, Paul Kench at the University of Auckland, and Arthur Webb, from the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission in Fiji. Their findings have been reported in the climate alarmist New Scientist
They used historical aerial photos and high-resolution satellite images to study changes in the land surface of 27 Pacific islands over the last 60 years.
Of these, only four had decreased in size, and the other 23 had either stayed the same or grown. On Tuvalu, Webb and Kench found that seven of the nine island atolls have increased in size by more than 3 per cent since the 1950s. One island, Funamanu, gained 0.44 ha, or nearly 30 per cent of its previous area. On another, a cyclone which hit Tuvalu in 1972 actually deposited 140 ha of sedimentary debris onto the eastern reef, increasing the area of the main island by 10 per cent.
They found similar trends in neighbouring Kiribati, where each of the three main islands increased in size.
Yet even these studies made no impact on New Scientist
. It quoted Barry Brook from the University of Adelaide who "points out that sea-level rise is already accelerating", and added that "warnings about rising sea levels must still be taken seriously".