Pacific Islands: Report Says Pacific Reefs, Economies Threatened

Publisher Name: 
UN Wire

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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