SCENERY Funafuti sea, the capital of the State of Tuvalu has extraordinary charm. The entire country, formerly known as the Ellice Islands in the Polynesian Archipelago, is built on three very thin, meandering coral islands that rise above the waves of the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
Often the distance from one Tuvaluan beach to another is only a few meters with sea waves, but these waves are the biggest threat to the existence of the Tuvaluan people.
A report released last week said people living in Tuvalu have an extraordinary fear when sea levels are rising or high tide. There is even concern for the whole country which at its highest point is only 4.5 meters above sea level. That means the country could suddenly ‘disappear from the map’ by sinking.
Not only Tuvalu, large parts of the Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, and many others in the western Pacific are also close to experiencing similar conditions due to climate change.
“It sounds harsh, but it’s really hard to imagine some of these low-lying places still exist,” said Monash University climate scientist Shayne McGregor. News.com.au.
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The once fertile land of Tuvalu became barren as it absorbed sea salt so that few plants could grow. The underground water storage has also been flooded by seawater which means local residents depend on rainwater.
Speaking at a meeting of the Pacific Island Forum on August 6, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Kausea Natano said the conditions would be a ‘disaster’ for the Pacific.
“There is no doubt that rising sea levels continue to threaten the very core of our existence, our statehood, our sovereignty, our people and our identity,” Kausea said.
While Prof McGregor explained, the western tropical Pacific has seen sea levels rise higher than elsewhere due to El Nino and La Nina phenomena. Indeed, sea levels around the world are neither static nor do they rise or fall uniformly.
“The oceans are turbulent rather than still. Something everyday like tides can vary widely even around the Australian continent. Also the effects of higher sea levels will not be the same in every location. Some places will have cliffs or artificial coastal defenses protecting the land. ,” he said.