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DISAPPEARING ISLANDS

A question frequently asked of the GIN Secretariat is which islands are most severely threatened by rising sea levels attributed to the effects of global warming. The following is a list of countries with annotated links which may prove helpful. Old and new press articles, academic papers, websites etc which could be usefully added to this ongoing reporting exercise would be gratefully appreciated and e-mailed to graeme@globalislands.net 

 

PACIFIC    

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

 

Bougainville's outer atolls are the most threatened. Amongst the worst affected island groups are Mortlock, Nuguria, Tasman, Nissan and Carteret. They are an 8 hour boat ride from Buka island in the north of Bougainville.

 

A New Zealand film crew are presently on Takuu (Mortlock Islands) making a documentary.

 

Tulele Peisa Inc is a local NGO.

 

The main islands of the Carteret group (pop of roughly over 2,500) include Han the largest, Piul, Huene, Iolasa, Iosela and Iangain.

December 2009 - The sea is killing our island paradise

October 2009 - Journey to the Sinking Lands

June 2009 - How-to guide for environmental refugees

September 2008 - Carterets folks to be relocated to Tinputz

January 2008 - Sea level rise forces relocation of PNG village

December 2007 - Sinking islanders seek help at Bali

November 2007 - Kiwi to help islanders abandon sinking island

January 2007 - UK film crew documents sea level rise in PNG

December 2006 - The last tide could come at any time. Then these islands at the end of the Earth will simply vanish

June 2006 - Carteret Islands evacuation (video and slideshow)

November 2005 - Islands battle rising seas for survival

 

People living on the Duke of York Islands in St. George's Channel near Rabaul are also facing major problems from rising sea levels. In 2001 they were moved to safer ground on nearby East New Britain after a resettlement agreement was reached between local landowners and the provincial government.

 

May 2008 - PNG islanders moved inland to escape sea level rise

November 2000 - Evacuation from rising seas planned for Pacific islanders

 

SOLOMON ISLANDS

 

March 2008 - Effects of global warming in the Solomons

 

TORRES STRAIT ISLANDS

 

CSIRO scientist Dr Donna Green has been working on the 14 inhabited islands scattered throughout the Torres Strait. Her recent report How might climate change affect island culture in the Torres Strait?  has highlighted that half of them have been hit by unprecedented flooding from surging king tides. At greatest risk were the sandy coral cays of Poruma, Iama, Masig and Warraber in the central Strait, and the north-western islands of Saibai and Boigu.

 

May 2008 - Sinking without trace: Australia's climate change victims

March 2008 - Unlocking the memories of islands' tides of change

August 2006 - Torres Strait: Going under with multi-media presentation

August 2006 - Rising waters may flood her island home

 

COOK ISLANDS

 

Paper by Pasha Carruthers to APN/SURVAS/LOICZ 2002 joint conference - Cook Islands Coastal Vulnerability Assessments: A Small Pacific Island Nation's Experience

 

Vaitoti Tupa discusses the environmental challenges facing the Cook Islands

 

FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA

 

In March 2007 the Conservation Society of Pohnpei reported that in the last five years rising ocean levels have taken a sandy islet a couple of miles south of Pohnpei and split another nearby islet.

 

4 March 2007 - Micronesia vanishing as climate warms up

 

FIJI

 

The WWF Climate Witness Programme  works to capture and provide information in relation to indigenous knowledge regarding climate change. Kabara Island in Fiji was their first initiative undertaken in the Pacific where it developed a methodology for a toolkit. This toolkit outlines steps to develop a community-based adaptation strategy to deal with adverse impacts of climate change like reduced rainfall, coastal erosion and coral bleaching which are already being experienced.

 

KIRIBATI

 

In June 1999 it was reported two uninhabited islets, Tebua Tarawa and Abanuea in Tarawa lagoon, had disappeared underwater and the island of Tepuka Savilivili no longer has any coconut trees due to salination.

October 2008 - An ailing island in the sun

January 2008 - The rising tide - Kiribati video

October 2006 - Rising tide of global warming threatens Pacific island states

January 2004 - That sinking feeling

January 2002 - Awash in a rising sea

August 2001 - Sinking feeling

January 2001 - Death by drowning

 

MARSHALL ISLANDS

 

With approximately 1,225 islets in 29 atolls scattered over ¾ million square miles and an average height above sea level of 7 feet, the government has been concerned with the issue of global climate change for many years. Coastal erosion is evident everywhere and on Majuro atoll, the airport has flooded several times, despite an eight-foot-high seawall.

 

US National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change Mega-Region: US Affiliated Islands

May 2010 - Protecting Micronesia's Islands

August 2006 - Sea wall no match for tide's fury

 

TUVALU

Alofa Tuvalu was born from the will to save Tuvalu, the first nation threatened to be submerged due to climate change. This 26 sq km archipelago - 9 islands lost in the South Pacific - is the symbol of what awaits us all if we do nothing to stop global warming. After a film "Trouble in Paradise" produced in 2003 about the situation in Tuvalu, Gilliane Le Gallic (who initiated Earth Day in French speaking countries in 1990) went back to gather the Tuvaluans around her assistance project "Small is Beautiful". Back in France, she created the association in February 2005 in order to host the project.

Japanese photographer, Shuuichi Endou, who has set up an NGO Tuvalu Overview is taking a photo of each and every one of Tuvalu's 10,000 inhabitants in his campaign to save the nation and send a message to the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

October 2008 - Environmental refugees on Tuvalu

January 2008 - Tuvalu struggles to hold back tide

March 2006 - Tuvalu is drowning with multi-media presentation

April 2004 - Will Tuvalu disappear beneath the sea?

July 2001 - Tuvalu's global warming fear

Tuvalu and global warming web page with many articles

Paper presented by Carol Farbotko, Univ of Tasmania, at ISISA VIII conference in Nov 2004: Sinking Islands? Tuvalu and climate change in the Sydney Morning Herald

Carol Farbotko (2005) Tuvalu and Climate Change: Constructions of Environmental Displacement in the Sydney Morning Herald Geografiska Annaler, Series B: Human Geography 87 (4), 279-293 (More about this author's work is on Univ of Tasmania site

Heather Lazrus (2005) The Role of Knowledge in Global Climate Change Governance: Modes of Legitimation in Tuvalu University of California International and Area Studies. Breslauer Symposium. Paper 10 (More about this author's work is on Island Vulnerability site)

VANUATU

Tegua island is one of five coral atolls in the Torres Group, 650 miles north of Vanuatu's main island, Efate. In 2006 the only village of Lateu and its 60 inhabitants had to move to higher ground, some 300 metres inland, due to rising sea levels.

August 2006 - Global Warning: Devastation of an Atoll

January 2006 - Surging seas force islanders to pack their bags

December 2005 - Pacific island villagers first climate change refugees

INDIAN OCEAN

MALDIVES

Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom published The Maldives: A Nation in Peril in 1998, outlining the danger of rising seas. Since then, coastal defences have been built and efforts made to protect reefs and guard against storms. Of the archipelago's 1,192 islands and coral atolls, 194 are inhabited, and the beaches on 60% of those are already facing varying degrees of erosion. The experience of the country's Sunni Muslim population of 300,000 during the December 2004 tsunami serves as a cautionary tale. While geography helped save the Maldives from the kind of scenes of death and destruction seen in neighbouring Sri Lanka and other countries, the authorities were forced to evacuate 13 islands completely and relocate their residents.

January 2008 - Maldives builds barriers to global warming

January 2008 - Apathy sinks Maldives island

May 2007 - Sea level rising by one millimetre every year

July 2004 - Maldives: Paradise soon to be lost

October 2002 - That sinking feeling: A nation in peril from the sea

November 1989 - Policy implications of sea level rise: the case of the Maldives

UNEP State of the Environment report Maldives 2002: Chapter on Climate Change and Sea Level Rise

BBC video on Maldives

ZANZIBAR

May 2008 - Zanzibar and Mafia to disappear in 100 years?

December 2007 - Waves threaten Zanzibar paradise

SUNDERBANS

Official records list 102 islands on the Indian side of the vast Sunderbans, where the Ganges and Brahmaputra empty in the Bay of Bengal. A six-year study by Kolkata's School of Oceanography Studies revealed that two, Suparibhanga and Lochacharra, have been submerged and a dozen more are under threat.

December 2009 - Hungry tide, homeless people

March 2008 - Time runs out for islanders on global warming's front line

February 2008 - Stranded in the Sunderbans

June 2007 - Islands of memory

March 2007 - Tiny island with a global warning

March 2007 - Rising sea levels threaten Indian islands

December 2006 - Disappearing world: Global warming claims tropical island

December 2006 - Rising sea levels engulfing Indian world heritage islands

BBC videos one and two 

BANGLADESH

With a population of 150 million, Bangladesh is the world's most densely populated country. A series of straddling deltas of some of the world's biggest rivers, Bangladesh is at risk not only from rising sea levels, but the increased flow of water caused by more rain and glacial melt from the Himalayas.

September 2008 - Bangladesh climate victims search for new land

July 2008 - Bangladesh landmass is growing

December 2007 - Vanishing Bangladeshi island crisis

April 2007 - The once lush island of Aralia is disappearing

NORTH SEA

Sylt, the largest of Germany's Frisian islands, in the North Sea, lost at least 800,000 cubic metres of sand from its beaches at the start of 2007 because of heavy storms and flooding that have marked the northern hemisphere autumn and winter seasons. All this sand washed out to sea has reversed part of a beach recovery carried out on Sylt in 2006. Jurgen Jensen, commissioned by the German government to study and protect the coast, warns that the disappearance of Sylt, which covers 90 sq km and whose highest point is 52 metres above sea level, would constitute a serious threat to the continental coastline.

Coastline Protection and Sea Level Rise. Final 64 page report published 2001 by Common Wadden Sea Secretariat

Expected effect of climate change on Sylt island

ARCTIC

The remote Alaskan island of Shishmaref is an Inupiaq community that is literally being swallowed by the sea. For several decades about 600 people of this barrier island and the Shishmaref Erosion and Relocation Coalition have been fighting a losing battle with nature.

August 2008 - Nunavut towns battling eroding shorelines

November 2007 - An Alaskan island is losing ground

March 2007 - Island people swallowed by the sea

October 2006 - Warming melting Arctic forces native Alaskan village to move

October 2004 - Vanishing Alaska

July 2004 - Sea engulfing Alaskan village

KEY RESOURCES

The Impact of Climate Change on Least Developed Countries and SIDS, UN June 2007

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) expert meeting on adaptation for Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

Part 1 for Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean SIDS, 5-7 Feb 2007, Kingston, Jamaica

Part 2 for Pacific and Indian Ocean SIDS, 26-28 Feb 2007, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Background paper Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change in SIDS

A full collection of previous SIDS country-level studies can be found on the Climate Institute site

A 128 page guidebook Surviving Climate Change in Small Islands produced by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, UK, in October 2005 provides information about the risks associated with climate change, as well as providing ideas, tools and techniques for those who need to start taking action today. It is primarily aimed at government officers who would like to learn more about climate change, its impacts and how to start preparing. The Centre also published Climate Dangers and Atoll Countries in 2001.

START final 2007 report Assessments of Impacts and Adaptation to Climate Change which includes SIDS chapter

Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Chapter 17 on Small Islands States

Climate Change 1997: The Regional Impacts of Climate Change Chapter 9 on Small Island States

German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) Special Report 2006: The Future Oceans - Warming Up, Rising High, Turning Sour

Ilan Kelman (2006) Island Security and Disaster Diplomacy in the Context of Climate Change

William Burns (2002) Pacific Island Developing Country Water Resources and Climate Change

Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research

Asia-Pacific Network on Climate Change

Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre

Climate Institute

Edmund Rice Centre Pacific Calling Partnership

Endangered Islands Campaign

Gateway to the UN System's Work on Climate Change

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Island Climate Update

Islands First

Many Strong Voices - A collaborative programme to ensure the well-being, security and sustainability of coastal communities in the Arctic and SIDS in the face of climate change

Ocean Climate

On the Frontlines of Climate Change

PreventionWeb

RealClimate

Pacific Climate Change Film Project & Festival

Pacific Climate Information System

Pacific Regional Environment Programme Climate Change Portal

Pacific Regional Integrated Science and Assessment Programme

Sea Level Rise Blog

Sea Level Rise Foundation

South Pacific Sea Level & Climate Monitoring Project

Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

UNESCO's Sandwatch Project
 
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