The Wayback Machine -
Oceania and Global Warming

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The swaying palms, the gentle surf lapping upon the sand
A gentle breeze so keen to please slowly gusts across our land
Our island home is all we have known as centuries rolled by
Our island people stood alone on reefs so barren and dry.
But as years go by we wonder why the shoreline is not the same
The things we knew as always true somehow do not remain
The breakers break on higher ground - the outer palms are falling down
The taro pits begin to die and the village elders wonder why.
For what is happening to the beautiful isles we know
Tuvalu, Kiribati and Tokelau - the Marshall isles, that place of smiles
The rising sea will reclaim our ground - nothing but water will abound
 Our people forced to leave for higher ground.
While far away they pour their fumes into the clear blue sky
Not knowing and never caring why the world is beginning to die
So land of our forebears despite how much we cared for you
The time will soon be when we must bid you adieu.

                                          Poem by Jane Resture

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The ramifications of global warming will most likely involve some form of resettlement of many of our people on the reefs. The logistics of this may be relatively simple however the longer term impact of resettling people whose ancestral and spiritual roots are buried so deeply in the ground is yet to be fully comprehended.

Environmentalists and friends of the earth have long contended that greenhouse gas emissions are a major contributing factor to global warming. The consequence of this is that the polar icecaps will melt resulting in  a subsequent rise in the sea level.

Present research has suggested that there will be an 0.5 - 0.8 degrees C rise in regional surface temperatures during the 20th century with less warming in the northern hemisphere. As a consequence of this, Pacific Island countries are experiencing certain effects which are consistent with the anticipated impacts of global climate change such as adverse effects on human health, drought and the subsequent decline of agricultural productions.

This will adversely affect many Pacific Islands, particularly those comprising low-lying coral atolls such as in Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu. Indeed, the effects of global warming are already becoming apparent in many of the outer islands of Papua New Guinea where the rising sea water level has spilled inland with a resultant detrimental effect on food gardens and crops. Indeed, when the tide subsides, pools of salt water remain causing the root crops such as banana, breadfruit trees and other foods to die from an excessive intake of salty water.

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Arno Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands

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Laura, Republic of the Marshall Islands
Photos: David R. Huskins

There are not many options available to our island people in order to counter the effects of global warming and rising sea levels. The two obvious options are firstly to construct sea walls around the low-lying atolls and secondary to progressively relocate the people on these atolls to higher safer ground. The first of these options appears not to be economically viable as the cost of constructing a sea wall for one Marshall Island atoll alone has been estimated at one hundred million US dollars. This is more than twice the wealth that the country produces each year.

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Trees in the midst of the sea - Tarawa, Kiribati

The option of resettling people who lose their island atolls as a result of global warming appears to be the only viable one. In some cases, this may eventually result in the resettlement of virtually all the population of many of our atoll island nations....they will simply disappear. In other cases, this may involve the relocation of people from an outer island to the main island. In any event, it will be a significant occasion particularly as generations of the people involved may have lived on the island for hundreds of years and their ancestral and spiritual roots are deeply buried in the soil. 

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The rare beauty of a Tarawa sunset
with a glorious full moon!

The solutions to the problems resulting from global warming and rising sea level will need to be found by our own people and by the friends of Oceania. There appears to be little doubt that over the next 70 years the resettlement of our atoll island nation people will be a necessity. It is only to be hoped that our beautiful and unique cultures can be preserved even if only in the hearts and minds of our people.

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Aspects of Global Warming

Oceania and Global Warming - Causes and Effects
click here Aspects of Global Warming           
click here Jane's Oceania Home Page           
Click Here Pacific Islands Radio                      
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(E-mail: -- Rev. 14th February 2005)