The Guardian September 5, 2001


Pacific Islands highlight global warming tragedy

by Peter Mac

Delegates to the meeting of the 32nd Pacific Island Forum held in Nauru 
last month, raised once again the spectre of global warming, an issue which 
threatens the very existence of the small and beautiful Pacific Island 
states. 

The issue is more urgent for these nations than for virtually any other 
country in the world. In recent years the Pacific Islands have lost much of 
their traditional sources of food to the drag-net fishing industry, and now 
they have an even more ominous threat to contend with in the rising sea 
levels resulting from global warming.

Some of the very small islands, which have since time immemorial provided 
supplementary housing and fishing for the Pacific Islanders, have already 
disappeared under the sea.

The rising waters have also begun to encroach on the larger islands. Many 
of the island beaches are now being eroded, as well as coastal areas used 
for traditional purposes, such as burial sites, recreation and shipping.

A gradual warming of the sea has now bleached huge areas of the wonderful 
coral reefs of the Pacific Ocean, and the continued existence of the reefs 
is also threatened by the rising sea levels.

Until now the coral reefs have protected many of the islands from cyclonic 
wave action, and the loss of this protection now appears certain to wreak 
havoc on the island coastlines.

The Forum expressed its particular concern at the attitude of the current 
US administration to the issue. (Australia has been a willing accomplice of 
the United States in its opposition to effective action to reduce the 
emission of greenhouse gases. Neither Australia nor the United States have 
ratified the Kyoto Protocol, even though the document is a thoroughly 
watered-down version of that which was urged by the world's leading 
scientists some nine years ago.)

The Forum communique stated that:

"The Forum encouraged all parties to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, observing 
that some Forum members have already ratified it. Leaders noted the 
concerns expressed by most members over the United States' intention not to 
ratify the Kyoto Protocol and agreed that the Forum urge the United States 
to reconsider its position and ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

"Leaders encouraged the United States and all other major emitters to 
contribute towards global efforts to address climate change."

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