Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Marshall Islands: not drowning, just waving

The Marshall Islands is in the news.

It’s in the news, because Pacific politicians and press are heading there for a week’s grandstanding with each other over things they know nothing about.

The know-nothingism has started early this time:

The Marshall Islands Government has made climate change the theme of the forum and has singled out New Zealand for its carbon pollution, pointing out that it is the fifth-highest emitter per head in the world…
   The Marshall Islands, a series of 29 coral atolls and islands halfway between Australia and Hawaii, sit just 2m above sea level on average and are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increasingly intense storms and droughts.
    "Climate change is already here," said Marshall Islands Vice-President Tony de Brum before the 44th Pacific Islands Forum..
He said the Marshalls and their sinking neighbours Kiribati and Tuvalu should not be seen as disposable but as the canary in the mine…

Specifically, Vice-President  de Brum is saying the Marshall Islands is supposed to be drowning under the waves of rising sea levels that are rising at an increasing rate, that the acceleration is caused by increasing global warming, that it is our industrial production is causing the increase—and the industrial world should do something to help them. 

And yet,  sea levels in the Pacific have been rising all century quite independently of the scare about global warming (which is only supposed to have started in earnest in the nineties) at a steady rate of 3.0 +/- 0.4 mm/yr


And just as in the rest of the Pacific, around the Marshalls sea level rise  has not been accelerating at all:


Yes, there are sea level measurements you can point to showing an accelerating sea-level rise, but they’re taken at a place in the Marshalls called Kwajalein, which is affected by a local subsidence in the sensitive coral atoll induced by building construction.  Similar to the problems at Tuvalu.

It is not that the sea around coral-based Kwajalein is rising fast; it’s that the land at the stations measuring sea level is sinking fast. As it is at all the "floating islands" like the Marshalls so frequently cited as canaries.

But you wouldn’t tout those sorts of distorted figures from those sinking stations would you, just to make some headlines? “Sea levels on the Marshall Islands have risen 7mm a year since 1993. The global average is 0.4mm.” Oh, you would.

And already, the world’s media are lapping it up unquestioningly.

As too they are lapping up the claim that “extreme weather events” such as floods and droughts and decreasing fresh water threaten the population. But this is a population surviving on small, very low-lying coral atolls with little ability to store fresh water. A rapidly increasing population (more than five times bigger than five decades ago) is entirely dependent for its drinking water on what comes from the sky. And neither rainfall nor storage capacity is increasing.  As with its near-neighbour Kiribati, the real problem is really so many people, so little rain.

Not that our intellectually-challenged Foreign Minister is likely to think that through.

Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak will be happy to hear he has the ear of The Stunted One, since he argues “that western countries like ours need to do more, as they are the ones most to blame for climate change.”

Sounds to me like man coming to the world’s conclaves with a begging bowl in one hand and a gun at the world’s producers with the other.

If he wants help for his country’s very real problems, why doesn’t he just ask nicely instead of helping to perpetuate a fraud.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, Pacific Islands are on average rising and increasing in area, not sinking, as NZ research discussed in this article shows: http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/nz-research-shows-pacific-islands-not-shrinking-3577883


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