Monday, July 16, 2007

Economic Advantage Trumps Global Warming Dangers

By Cernig

I've a suggestion for anyone left who denies global warming is a real and occuring problem - put your money where your mouth is and move to Tuvalu.
Veu Lesa, a 73-year-old villager in Tuvalu, does not need scientific reports to tell him that the sea is rising. The evidence is all around him. The beaches of his childhood are vanishing. The crops that used to feed his family have been poisoned by salt water. In April, he had to leave his home when a "king tide" flooded it, showering it with rocks and debris.

For Tuvalu, a string of nine picturesque atolls and coral islands, global warming is not an abstract danger; it is a daily reality. The tiny South Pacific nation, only four metres above sea level at its highest point, may not exist in a few decades. Its people are already in flight; more than 4,000 live in New Zealand, and many of the remaining 10,500 are planning to join the exodus. Others, though, are determined to stay and try to fight the advancing waves.

The outlook is bleak. A tidal gauge on the main atoll, Funafuti, suggests the sea level is climbing by 5.6mm a year, twice the average global rate predicted by the UN's International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

There is not enough data yet to establish a definitive trend but that figure is alarming, implying a rise of more than half a metre in the next century. Most Tuvaluans live just one to two metres above sea level.

Funafuti's tranquil lagoon is adorned by a necklace of cream islets, each one tufted with dense vegetation. There used to be seven. Now there are six. The other one disappeared after a series of cyclones in the late 1990s. First, the palm trees were stripped off, then the sand, then the soil beneath. All that remains is a forlorn scrap of rubble, visible at low tide. It is an ominous indicator, in miniature, of what awaits Tuvalu's larger, populated islands.

Of all the low-lying nations menaced by global warming, little Tuvalu has been most vocal in the international arena. It recognised the threat early on, and successive governments have lobbied hard to alert the outside world to its predicament. The country - formerly one half of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, a British protectorate - joined the UN and the Commonwealth in order to raise its profile, and sent diplomats on globe-trotting missions.

Six or seven years on, Tuvaluans concluded that the international community - particularly the big industrialised nations puffing vast quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere - does not care. "They never listened when we asked for help," says Enate Evi, director of the Environment Department. "To be honest, I think they only care about themselves, and their economic advantage. That's how it feels, sitting here."
Tuvalu - the new headquarters for conservative denialist groups like this and this.

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