Rising seas imperil Pacific
By Ellen Read, Reuters
have said that global warming may devastate the economies of several small South Pacific nations over the next 20 years, according
to a report commissioned by the environmental group, Greenpeace.
The Greenpeace report said the worst affected
would be nine Polynesian and Micronesian island groups: Tonga, the Cook Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, French Polynesia,
Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru and Palau.
"The most vulnerable countries are Tuvalu
and Kiribati, tiny islands in a vast surrounding ocean," the report said.
The Greenpeace report estimated that a
rise in the sea level of 4.7-7.8 inches would cost the island nations $2-2.6 billion over the next 20 years.
Four larger Melanesian countries will suffer
to the tune of $1.9-$2.5 billion said the report which was prepared by a team of scientists and economists, including the
director of the University of Queensland's Centre for Marine Studies. Less affected would be Melanesian groups: Fiji, New
Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, because of their larger size and the availability of more resources.
The effect of the sea level increase would
be aggravated by the death of coral as sea temperatures rise.
Tuvalu's prime minister, Ionatana Ionatana,
told New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark at a meeting in February that many of Tuvalu's 10,500 residents would seek a new
home over the next decade as climate warming and population pressure came to bear. New Zealand is already home to 5,000 people
Wolfgang Scherer, director of the South
Pacific Sea Level and Climate Change Programme, said that while sea levels are rising, there is no evidence yet of an acceleration.
"So far there is no signal there, in terms
of a major climate change kind of signal, in the acceleration of sea level rises," he said. "But because the ocean response
time is very slow, it would take a long time to respond (so) we have to continue monitoring."