For nearly a decade now, the tiny Pacific island-group nation of Tuvalu has made news for its government’s claim that the archipelago is being swallowed up by rising sea levels caused by global warming. The island government has even considered suing the world’s largest industrial powers for emitting the carbon dioxide that many scientists believe is trapping solar radiation in the atmosphere and leading to allegedly higher global temperatures. When the highly vaunted UN climate summit in Copenhagen in Dec. 2009 failed to produce a successor agreement to the 1997 Kyoto accords, the Tuvalu delegation was not shy about expressing its disgust and outrage, claiming that world leaders had consigned them to a slow extermination. (So slow — over 100 years — that almost no current Tuvaluns will live long enough to be killed by the encroaching oceans and their descendents will have plenty of time to row to safety. But let’s not pick nits.)
Now comes word that a drought afflicting the four-island, five-atoll state has dried up nearly all the fresh water there. The United States, Australia and New Zealand have airlifted in potable supplies and desalination plants, but even so, Tuvalu has only about half the daily water supply its inhabitants need.
This, too, is being blamed on manmade climate change, although, it is known that the immediate cause of the low rainfall is a powerful La Nina, which (not to nitpick again), is a cooling of the Pacific’s surface over a broad area near the equator.
The trouble for all these Polynesian prophesies of impending doom is that there is no evidence of appreciable sea-level rise in the past 50 years, not at Tuvalu or anywhere. The more likely causes of the nation’s ecological threats are over-population, a reduction (deliberate or otherwise) of natural barrier reefs and government mismanagement of water resources.
Two American experts on coastal construction and sea-level — James Houston, director emeritus of engineering research and development for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Robert Dean, professor emeritus of civil and coastal engineering at the University of Florida — examined decades worth of data from all the tidal monitors around the U.S. and determined earlier this year that “worldwide-temperature increase has not produced acceleration of global sea level over the past 100 years.” indeed, the rate at which oceans have been rising has “possibly decelerated for at least the last 80 years.”
Houston and Dean are committed warmists. They started their study with the expectation that their results would show rapidly increasing sea levels. Instead, they found that the oceans around the U.S. had risen little in the 20th Century and that the far from rising faster due to global warming were actually rising more slowly. If the trend of the past 80 years continued, the pair estimated that at most worldwide oceans would rise by 15 cms (ankle depth) by 2100, rather than the one to two metres most recently projected by the UN, or the 10 metres estimated by Al Gore.
Swedish geologist and physicist Nils-Axel Mörner, formerly chairman of INQUA, the International Commission on Sea Level Change, has studied real-world sea levels for nearly 40 years. Rather than relying mostly on computer models, as most climate scientists do, Dr. Morner has concentrated on using satellites, photographs and detailed measurement records to determine whether the oceans are rising, falling or remaining pretty much the same.
“The sea is not rising,” he has told anyone who will listen. ”It hasn’t risen in 50 years.” What’s more, if it rises in the 21st Century, it will be by ”not more than 10cm (four inches), with an uncertainty of plus or minus 10cm.” That’s pretty much the same prediction as that derived by the other real-world measurers, Houston and Dean.
This past June, we learned, too, that even if the oceans are rising, Pacific islands such as Tuvalu may actually be expanding as a result, not sinking. Paul Kench, a geography professor from New Zealand’s Auckland University, and Arthur Webb of Fiji’s South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission, measured 27 South Pacific islands using satellite images and aerial photos and found that over the past 60 years only four had shrunk, while 23 had either remained unchanged or expanded. “It has been thought that as the sea level goes up, islands will sit there and drown,” Prof. Kench told the New Scientist. “But they won’t.”
Storms and rising waters bring in more debris from surrounding coral reefs and build up the islands, he explained. Some have grown by more than 30%, with an average increase of 3% since the 1950s.
Their findings were published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Global and Planetary Change.
So why has the government of Tuvalu kicked up such a fuss? For one, like most warming alarmists, they have almost certainly convinced themselves that the earth truly is going to hell in a hand basket — they believe their own bumph, even in the presence of contravening research. Then there is the fact that continuing to sound the climate-change alarm has brought the tiny nation a lot of attention and foreign aid. And, finally, many Tuvaluns would like to leave. To some extent, too, their government would like to see them go as a partial solution to over-population.
All the dire talk has convinced New Zealand to create an immigration fast-track for islanders and caused guilt-ridden governments in the developed world to send Tuvalu tens of millions of development dollars. So it’s not hard to figure out why Tuvalu has such a high stake in all the climate change hysteria.
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