Scientists warn small islands of climate's disastrous impacts
By Chen Ming
PORT LOUIS, Jan. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Rising sea levels combined withother extreme climatic events such as more frequent and powerful hurricanes and new patterns of cyclones have already caused major damage in many small island developing states (SIDS), and the worst seems yet to come.
This warning is alarmed by many specialists from different parts of the world at the ongoing International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Program of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, which was launched here on Monday.
Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, said at the meeting that there was a need to look at actions that could be taken to minimize the impact of such natural disasters like the tsunami which claimed at least 155,000 lives in Asia.
In terms of climate change, he said, "of particular relevance to small island states is the rise of sea levels. The current trends indicate that there would be an increase in global surface temperature, which would contribute to the rising sea levels."
"Water resources are also at the risk and coastal areas are suffering from the erosion of beaches," he added.
Among the causes of sea level rise were rising temperature, which, for example, resulted in melting glaciers.
Malie Lototele, director of planning under the Ministry of Finance from the smallest island state of Tuvalu, told Xinhua at the meeting that his country is evacuating citizens from the island to New Zealand, which allows 75 people a year to go there. "But they have set a very strict requirement," he said.
The coral islands of Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean, like Maldivesin the Indian Ocean, are set to disappear as sea level rises with global warming. Either way, Tuvalu's 11,300 inhabitants are about to start leaving their homes.
In February 2004, the nine islands of the low-lying atoll of Tuvalu were submerged by "king tides" with peaks approaching threemeters. These tides washed over the lowest points of that nation, whose highest point is only 4.5 meters (15 feet) above sea level, affecting freshwater sources and damaging food crops.
According to its inhabitants, such kind of tides, once rare forthe islands, now occur roughly every two years. The worst floodinghappened in 2001, when practically all the entire land area of these islands was under water.
Small islands, however, were not the only nations to suffer from these effects. Coastal countries, such as Bangladesh, were also affected. A few months ago, four major hurricanes and tropical storms - Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne - struck the Caribbean islands (and southeastern United States), causing thousands of casualties in Haiti and devastating Grenada.
This worst Caribbean hurricane season in living memory, along with other extreme weather events that took place in 2004 in both the Pacific and Indian Oceans, are seen by many as empirical evidence of impacts that are harbingers of the expected effects ofclimate change.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a worldwide assessment panel established by the United Nations to which more than 2,000 leading scientists contribute, the global average sea level has risen by 10 to 20 cm over the past 100 years.
This represents a rate of increase of 1 to 2 mm per year, some 10 times faster than the rate observed for the previous 3,000 years. It also projected a global average temperature increase of 1.4-5.8 degrees Celsius, and a consequential rise in global mean sea level of 9-88 cm, by the year 2100.
Addressing delegates from more than 100 countries at the crucial UN conference, Pachauri said that there were several actions that could be taken to protect human beings and communities from the effects of such climate change. "Protective devices could be set up to reduce that risk."
He added that coral structures could be of particular value in terms of protecting coastlines.
Delegates from different countries have also proposed ways to address the impact that climate change and sea-level rise and to recommend actions to assist islands in adapting to these threats and prevent disasters.
These include proposals to reinforce the international community's commitments to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, to strengthen islands' early-warning anti-storm systems and to increase support to islands to adapt to climate change.
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