Global Warming May Devastate Pacific Nations
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GLOBAL WARMING MAY DEVASTATE PACIFIC NATIONS - REPORT
October 30, 2000
WELLINGTON - Rising sea levels and sea temperatures caused by global warming
may devastate the economies of several small South Pacific nations over the
next 20 years, according to an economic report released on Friday.
The report, commissioned by the environmental group Greenpeace, estimated
that a rise in the sea level of 12-20 cm (4.7-7.8 inches) would cost nine
small Polynesian and Micronesian nations A$4-5 billion ($2.0-$2.6 billion)
over the next 20 years.
Four larger Melanesian countries will suffer to the tune of A$1.9-$2.5
billion, said the report, prepared by a team of scientists and economists,
including the director of the University of Queensland's Centre for Marine
Studies, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg.
Low-lying Pacific Island nations have for years been complaining at world
global forums that they face dire environmental and economic consequences
from global warming.
The U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a
report on Thursday warning that global temperatures could rise by as much as
six degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century,
compared with 1990.
The Greenpeace report said some Pacific Island nations have already
experienced a rise in average temperatures of one degree Celsius over the
The report said the effect of the sea level increase would be aggravated by
the death of large areas of coral atoll as rising sea temperatures put coral
polyps under pressure. "Rising sea levels, more frequent cyclones and
decreased alkalinity...are likely to remove corals as dominant organisms on
coral reefs in the next 20 to 50 years," the report said.
TINY FLAT ISLANDS
Some of the islands seen at risk are coral atolls little more than a few
metres above sea level, with tiny populations.
"The most vulnerable countries are Tuvalu and Kiribati, tiny islands in a
vast surrounding ocean," the report said.
"Generally, the Polynesian nations tend to be small and vulnerable, with
relatively limited possibilities to adapt to changed circumstances."
Kiribati - where South Pacific leaders are meeting for their annual summit
this weekend - has around 90,000 residents and Tuvalu around 10,000.
Worst affected would be nine Polynesian and Micronesian island groups:
Tonga, the Cook Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, French Polynesia, Kirbati,
Tuvalu, Nauru and Palau, the report said.
Less affected would be Melanesian groups: Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon
Islands and Vanuatu, because of their larger relative size and the
availability of more resources.
In the more bleak of two scenarios, the study said tourism would collapse by
25-75 percent, reef fishing by 25-50 percent and pelagic fishing 10-25
percent - leading to gross domestic product (GDP) contracting by 40-50
percent in the small Polynesian and Micronesian nations.
"A possible collapse of the protective barrier function of the reef could
result in dramatic coastal erosion...and significant human mortality cannot
be excluded," the report said.
MILD SCENARIO STILL DIRE
The less drastic scenario, which assumes that corals and other reef
organisms adapt to the expected climate change, saw tourism shrinking 15
percent, reef fishing 15 percent and pelagic fishing five percent.
"Even the so-called mild scenario will have dire impact on small countries
with low-lying islands spread across a vast ocean...It is only the expected
pace of change that is under debate, not the long-term effects," the report
The authors said global warming for some other countries might mean
grapevines flourishing in new areas but for the coral a few degrees more
warmth was a death warrant.
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