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Pacific Islands: Report Says Pacific Reefs, Economies Threatened

UN Wire
October 31st, 2000

Pacific island nations face severe economic decline due to the effects of global warming on coral reefs, which currently represent a key source of income, according to a Greenpeace report released Friday.

Tuvalu and Kiribati, tiny island nations, are most vulnerable, but by 2020 the other 11 nations studied -- American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Nauru, New Caledonia, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and Samoa -- will also likely face bleak economic conditions, according to the report, Pacific in Peril (Greenpeace report, 26 Oct. Note: You may need to download free software to view this PDF file).

The report was released in Kiribati to coincide with a meeting of leaders from 14 Pacific island nations on Kiribati's Tarawa atoll (Agence France-Presse, 26 Oct). "The socioeconomic impacts identified in the paper are so profound that they dwarf any strategic issue currently confronting a major peacetime economy," according to the report's executive summary.

Due to the continuing warming of the Pacific Ocean, which already heated 0.79 degrees Celsius over the past century, within the next 20 to 50 years corals will no longer be the dominant organisms on coral reefs, the report said.

"Planning must begin now to deal with the growing vulnerability of coastal dwellings and with other impacts on societies in which the majority of the populations depend on subsistence living, based on access to healthy reef systems and associated produce," the report said. "International action is clearly required to secure the funding and technical assistance required to protect and, ultimately, rehabilitate the Pacific community of nations" (Greenpeace report, 16 Oct).

"No one can read this report and remain unmoved by the scale of devastation facing Pacific countries from climate change," said Greenpeace campaigner Kitsy McMullen. "Governments must go to the November climate summit on the Kyoto Protocol in The Hague prepared to agree on real action to prevent further climate change" (Greenpeace release, 26 Oct).

A report released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last week found that if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed, the average surface temperature of the planet will increase between 2.7 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century, significantly more than estimated five years ago (UN Wire, 26 Oct).

Low-lying Pacific Island countries have long been warning of the environmental and global consequences they face from global warming (Reuters/PlanetArk, 30 Oct). As Greenpeace released its report, Tuvalu Prime Minister Ionatana Ionatana criticized developed nations for failing to keep the spirit of the Kyoto Protocol by not taking sufficient action on global warming (Radio New Zealand International/BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 27 Oct).

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