The truth - Tuvalu is not sinking

June 18, 2006, 10:29 am News

New Zealand climate scientist and respected Pacific Islands commentator show Tuvalu is not sinking


A New Zealand climate scientist and a Pacific Island writer give assurances Tuvalu is not sinking .


 JUNE 15TH 2006


 Everybody knows about Tuvalu, It is becoming inundated by the rising sea level because of global warming. The New Zealand Government has recognised the plight of the embattled inhabitants by offering special deals for immigration. So have the Australians. It forms a regular topic at meetings of the Pacific Forum and beyond, and there cannot possibly be any disagreement on the matter .

 A couple of years' ago I was interviewed by the Dunedin-based Natural History Unit as part of documentary for the National Geographic Channel. I had over an hour to give my views on greenhouse warming, which I expected would appear in an internationally distributed documentary. They sent me a copy of the final doco "to enjoy". I found that it was all about how Tuvalu is faced with imminent disaster, with a "moaning Minnie" lady persistently bemoaning the loss of her homeland from a comfortable flat in Brisbane. My contribution had been almost eliminated .

 But Tuvalu reminds me of a comic song I used to sing of Gracie Fields called "He's dead but he won't lie down". Tuvalu persistently refuses to subside .

 A tide gauge to measure sea level has been in existence at Tuvalu since 1977, run by the University of Hawaii It showed a negligible increase of only 0.07 mm per year over two decades It fell three millimeters between 1995 and 1999. The complete record can still be seen on John Daly's website:>  Obviously this could not be tolerated, so the gauge was closed in 1999 and a new, more modern tide gauge was set up by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's National Tidal Center by Flinders University at Adelaide. But Tuvalu refuses to submit to political pressure. The sea level has actually fallen since then Tuvalu cannot be allowed to get away with it. So Greenpeace employed Dr John Hunter. a climatologist of the University of Tasmania, who obligingly "adjusted" the Tuvalu readings upwards to comply with changes in ENSO and those found for the island of Hawaii and, miraculously, he found a sea level rise of "around" 1.2 mm a year which, also miraculously, agrees with the IPCC global figure .

 Since all this seems biased, or politically influenced, Dr John Church of the CSIRO at Hobart, Tasmania, a lead author of the IPCC Chapter on "Sea Level", plus his colleague Dr Neil White, have sought to reverse actual measured trends by "combining records from tide gauges from all over the world with satellite altimeter data to assess regional variation". Unsurprisingly, and equally miraculously, they reach the same conclusion as Greenpeace and the IPCC. All this has to be imposed on poor little Tuvalu to "prove" global warming.and speed emigration .

 The IPCC Chapter on Sea Level is one of the more dishonest. It practices two important deceptions. First, it completely fails to mention the fact that many tide gauges are situated close to cities where the land is subsiding because of erection of heavy buildings, or removal of ground water, oil and minerals. It so happens that the island of Hawaii is one of the more heavily populated Pacific islands where the sea level is "rising" because the land is "falling" Another reason for upwards bias is Port Adelaide, Australia, where they decided to increase the water level in the harbour to allow for larger ships, They dredged and built a bar on the harbour. Unsurprisingly, the level rose on the tide-gauge. Corrections for these upwards biases in tide-gauge measurements have never been permitted to be discussed by the IPCC .

 The other deception of the IPCC Sea Level Chapter is in statistics. The sea level averages are so inaccurate that they have to supply only one standard deviation as a measure of inaccuracy, instead of the otherwise universal use of two standard deviations. One standard deviation gives only a one in three chance that the measurement lies outside the limits. Two standard deviations puts it up to one in twenty. If you use the proper figures you find that the accuracy sometimes permits a less than one in twenty chance of a sea level fall. That must never be allowed This whole melancholy story is told in an article in "Science" 2006 Volume 312, pages 734 to 736, It seems that the Greenpeace organisation is now occupying the role of the late Trofim Lysenko in their ability to reverse the findings of scientific research .

Vincent Gray

 75 Silverstream Road

 Crofton Downs

 Wellington 6004

 New Zealand

 Phone/Fax 064 4 9735939

 Tuvalu News


 Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai'i



 By Michael Field

 AUCKLAND, New Zealand (March 28, 2002 - Agence France-Presse)---International environmentalists might have it wrong -- global warming is not drowning the Pacific atoll nation of Tuvalu beneath a rising Pacific .

Its fate may be much more prosaic and all local: severe over-population, profound pollution and an unusual World War II legacy .

Experts even believe that if the threatening El Niño event occurs in the next six months, the sea level around Tuvalu will actually fall a by a dramatic 30 centimeters (11 inches). It did during the last big El Niño .

"The historical record shows no visual evidence of any acceleration in sea level trends," Australia's National Tidal Facility (NTF) said in a statement about Tuvalu this week .

Contrast that hard science with the emotional statement of Tuvalu Prime Minister Koloa Talake at last month's Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting where he announced Tuvalu, its neighbor Kiribati and the Maldives are planning legal action against Western nations that they say are creating the global warming that is rising the Pacific's level .

"Flooding is already coming right into the middle of the islands, destroying food crops and trees, which were there when I was born 60 years ago. These things are gone .

Somebody has taken them and global warming is the culprit," Talake said .

NTF, which has a network of tide gauges across the Pacific, says absolutely not so .

The Pacific shows no signs, anywhere, of rising .

NTF deputy head Bill Mitchell told AFP that the absolute contrast between politics and science was developing into a crisis. His organization is holding urgent talks with the Tuvalu Government to sort out the problem .

Their tidal gauge has been on the capital atoll of Funafuti since 1993 .

As of February 2002, "based on short term sea level rise analyses ... the nearly nine years of data return show a rate plus 0.9 millimeters (0.03 inch) per year," they say .

Mitchell says arguments can be made over the time length and type of scale but he is confident the data show Tuvalu is no more sinking than Australia is .

So why are the politicians so adamant? "We are not quite sure what is going on there," Mitchell said .

For the record, NTF, part of Flinders University of South Australia, is funded to carry out the Pacific study by the Australian Government and Canberra is unpopular with the Pacific for its rejection of the Kyoto Protocols on global warming .

But like Kiribati -- with which Tuvalu was once joined as the Gilbert and Ellice Islands under British rule until 1978 -- evidence is pointing to the locals creating their own nightmares .

Funafuti is an atoll of 30 islets but with a total land area of just 254 hectares (627 acres). That's about two-thirds the size of either New York's Central Park or London's Hyde Park. Much of Funafuti's land is taken up with a runway. On the atoll live 4,000 people in one of the world's densest concentrations .

Mitchell said seawater encroachments into vegetable growing pits is occurring but is not due to sea level rise .

"It could be something as simple as chopping down coconut trees. It could affect the hydrology of the atoll," he said .

The population density, and its associated pollution, might be destroying the atoll .

Mitchell points to Funafuti's infamous "borrow pits," large holes filled with trash .

During the war the Japanese reached Tarawa in the then Gilberts. To turn them back the Americans secretly used Funafuti as a forward base and constructed an airfield by simply digging out a third of the main islet of Fongafale .

It has been known for years that Funafuti's water table has suffered because of the pits and while Tuvalu used to appeal to the Americans to fix the pits, nothing has been done .

Mitchell believes that may be the real problem with the land degradation Tuvalu's politicians blame on global warming .

"It's not sea level rise. It cannot be," he said. "It must be some other land use change that is going on." He admits this is likely to be an unpopular view in the Pacific, now more used to blaming Australia than themselves .

Tuvalu's potential fellow litigant, Kiribati, claims its capital, Tarawa, is sinking .

But when one visiting journalist pointed to the severe pollution, over-population and manmade changes to the islets, Kiribati President Teburoro Tito had the reporter declared an "undesirable immigrant." NTF is also arguing against the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has warned of sea level rise .

Says NTF: "...over a major part of the world ocean ... the indication is that, over recorded history, sea level rise has occurred, but at a rate which falls significantly short of the IPCC world assessment."

 Michael Field

 New Zealand/South Pacific Correspondent

 Agence France-Presse


 Phone: (64 21) 688438

 Fax: (64 21) 694035



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