Back in 2005, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) predicted that climate change would create 50 million climate refugees by 2010.
In 2006, Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth claimed "New Zealand may be refuge as rising sea levels displace hundred of millions of people." (John Key, for one, blithely sat through Gore’s presentation of this bunkum, leaving the Goracle’s Auckland presentation saying it had “pressed all his buttons”—presumably the ones that only function when his critical faculty is turned off.)
Yet by 2009, even the BBC were admitting “fears of millions of "climate refugees" crossing national borders are not supported by evidence on the ground.”
And by 2011, it was becoming clear “that the places identified by the UNEP as most at risk of having climate refugees are not only not losing people, they are actually among the fastest growing regions in the world,” and the UNEP was backpedalling as fast as it could. Which was not very fast.
Fast forward now to this morning, when Radio New Zealand and many other news services worldwide led news bulletins with news that New Zealand had received the world’s very first application for climate refugee status, and it has been declined.
A Kiribati man who argues he should be given refugee status in New Zealand because of the effects of global warming on the island, has been refused permission to challenge a decision denying him asylum.
Ioane Teitiota, who is facing deportation after overstaying his visa, sought leave to appeal against an Immigration and Protection Tribunal decision, at the High Court in Auckland on 26 October.
His lawyer spelled out how high tides breach sea walls on the island and said the ocean is contaminating drinking water, killing crops and flooding homes.
But the reason for drinking water in Kiribati being contaminated is not that Kiribati is sinking. It is that Kiribati has too many people, and too little rain.
Indeed, as Auckland University scientists established earlier this year, Kiribati is one of several Micronesian Islands that is not sinking, but growing.
"Eighty per cent of the islands we've looked at have either remained about the same or, in fact, gotten larger," said [Auckland University's Associate Professor Paul Kench, a member of the team of scientists].
"Some of those islands have gotten dramatically larger, by 20 or 30 per cent.
"We've now got evidence the physical foundations of these islands will still be there in 100 years."
Dr Kench says the growth of the islands can keep pace with rising sea levels.
You can check for yourself the curious claim of disappearing islands with this time-lapse satellite photography of one of the Kiribati islands and this of another. [Hat tip Andrew Bolt] And compare them, and the evidence above and below, with claims still blithely recycled on Radio New Zealand this morning, that Kiribati is sinking.
Because if Kiribati does have a problem, it is emphatically not that it is sinking.
It is, perhaps, that it is becoming too overpopulated for the people it can support at its present state of industry. And its people seeking to emigrate are being persuaded to use spurious reasons to justify their emigration before tribunals indisposed to accept any reason at all to grant their wish.
UPDATE: Paul Van D. has sent me this animated Gif, toggling between the satellite photos of Kiribati island in 1984 (when satellite monitoring began) and 2012.