Saturday, 5 June 2010

Pacific Island ‘growing not sinking’ report criticised

By Makereta Komai for Climate Pasifika in Bonn, Germany

04 June 2010 Bonn, Germany --- A report released this week by Auckland University claiming that many low lying Pacific Island nations are ‘growing, not sinking’ has attracted strong criticism from one Pacific climate change negotiator here in Bonn, Germany.

Ambassador Colin Beck of Solomon Islands questioned the timing of the release of the report, especially when the Pacific and other Alliance of Small Island States are pursuing recognition for their special vulnerability to the impact of climate change.

“This kind of science in our view is short sighted.

“It is sad to see a university from our region make general statement without looking at the long term implications. Off course all corals are growing but they are sensitive to temperature. You cannot say the same thing if the sea continues to rise and to ocean acidification which results in coral bleaching.

“Unfortunately, the timing of the report is not right for us and we see it as sending a wrong signal.

“While we believe that the outcome has to be science driven, this kind of science is a little bit short sighted in our view.

“It is politicised science because it tries to bring in a different science reality into the political reality to give the perception that things will be good in the long run.

According to a BBC report published Friday, the islands of Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia are among those which have grown, because of coral debris and sediment.

The study, featured in the magazine the New Scientist, predicts that the islands will still be there in 100 years' time. However it is still unsure whether many of them will be inhabitable.
In recent times, the inhabitants of many low-lying Pacific islands have come to fear their homelands being wiped off the map because of rising sea levels. But this study of 27 islands over the last 60 years suggests that most have remained stable, while some have actually grown.

Associate Professor Paul Kench of Auckland University, who took part in the study, published in the journal Global and Planetary Change says the islands are not in immediate danger of extinction.

“That rather gloomy prognosis for these nations is incorrect,” he told the BBC.

“We have now got the evidence to suggest that the physical foundation of these countries will still be there in 100 years, so they perhaps do not need to flee their country.”

But although these islands might not be submerged under the waves in the short-term, it does not mean they will be inhabitable in the long-term, and the scientists believe further rises in sea levels pose a significant danger to the livelihoods of people living in Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia.

One scientist in Kiribati said that people should not be lulled into thinking that inundation and coastal erosion were not a major threat.

Ms Komai will be covering the Bonn Climate Change negotiations from 31 May – 11 June 2010, thanks to support from Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). She will provide daily coverage of the negotiations via PACNEWS and the SPREP website, the climate pasifika blogspot, and the PINA Green page

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