Wednesday, 7 March 2012

"Entire nation of Kiribati to be relocated over rising sea level threat" - more nonsense

UPDATE 12/3/2012 - Media hype and something akin to senile dementia appear to have blown this out of all proportion - details at the the end of this post. Message ends.

Here we go again, if it's not birds/pika/trees/polar bears/ice-hockey at risk from global warming or climate change, or both, it's Pacific islands slipping quietly beneath rising waves. The Daily Telegraph - where circulation wins over facts, cannot recognise a naked ploy to attract foreign aid and sympathy when it sees one:

Entire nation of Kiribati to be relocated over rising sea level threat 
The low-lying Pacific nation of Kiribati is negotiating to buy land in Fiji so it can relocate islanders under threat from rising sea levels.
In what could be the world's first climate-induced migration of modern times, Anote Tong, the Kiribati president, said he was in talks with Fiji's military government to buy up to 5,000 acres of freehold land on which his countrymen could be housed. 
Some of Kiribati's 32 pancake-flat coral atolls, which straddle the equator over 1,350,000 square miles of ocean, are already disappearing beneath the waves.

Most of its 113,000 people are crammed on to Tarawa, the administrative centre, a chain of islets which curve in a horseshoe shape around a lagoon.

"This is the last resort, there's no way out of this one," Mr Tong said.
 "which straddle the equator" - at least that bit's right. "Most of its 113,000 people are crammed on to Tarawa" - if rather less than half is "most" then that's true also. Why am I cynical about this "cry for help"? Mr Tong tells us
"What we need is the international community to come up with an urgent funding package to deal with that ambition, and the needs of countries like Kiribati."
From the horse's mouth, the reason for my cynicism. There's plenty more material to scan with a fact-meter in this relatively short piece, but suffice to cut to Mr. Tong's "last resort"

Kiribati, Island: Tarawa. Location: Betio    Source Data: NTC 2012

Short-term rate since 2002 is -4.7 mm/year. He was right - "there's no way out of this one".

But wait, Mr. Tong wants to lead the entire population to refuge on Fiji, like Moses parting the waves (it's a long paddle though). Shouldn't a prudent president check where he's going to tread before taking an irreversible step which might, just might, be in the wrong direction?
The land Kiribati wants to buy is understood to be on Vanua Levu, Fiji's second largest island.
The "promised land" of Vanua Levu doesn't have a tide gauge, but the larger Viti Levu, 64 km to the south has not one but two tide gauges, so Mr. Tong, who's so well acquainted with current sea level change around Tarawa, must have checked, surely? I'm not one to kick a man when he's down (Lies, all lies - Ed.), so I've checked for him, using two more charts I just happen to have lying around, as you do.

I just hope that the situation in the "promised land" is different - remember the rates shown are monthly, so multiply by 12 for annual. CGPS monitoring shows Lautoka on Viti Levu to be sinking at around 3 mm/year

Source: SONEL   

... while current homeland Tarawa is rising at a slightly higher rate. Oops.

Source: SONEL   

At least Vanua Levu is quite hilly, so all won't be lost if the situation there deteriorates. Looks like a terrible place to me (/sarc).

Vanua Levu, Fiji, the "promised land"
I'm sure they have frying pans and fires on Tarawa, so perhaps the metaphor won't be lost on Mr. "Moses" Tong.


Looks like Mr.Tong has been forced to take a reality pill. Now he says "... the land will be used to help prepare younger generations for a future working in Australia or New Zealand". He previously said, as reported above, that he was "in talks with Fiji's military government to buy up to 5,000 acres of freehold land on which his countrymen could be housed". One small problem for him - he has neither the authority nor the hard cash to do any such thing. A former President, Teburoro Tito has now said that "reports that the Cabinet has endorsed a plan to buy nearly 3,000 hectares on Fiji’s main island are ridiculous", and that "nothing of the sort has been discussed in parliament".

“People here are laughing about that, they think it’s a joke. That’s the initial reaction. And as I said earlier where did the President get the idea from? Which people - his own island, the island I’m representing or some other people in Kiribati.”

It's good to see that Kiribati, like the US, has a president who's in touch with reality and has his people and government behind him.

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