October 6

South Pacific countries sound alarm at UN debate on impact of global

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Michael Somare warned the Assembly that small islands and low-lying atolls across the Pacific are already being submerged by rising sea levels.“For us, this is not academic, it is reality!” he said, adding scientific studies indicate that climate change is also responsible for the increasing frequency of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tsunamis, flash floods and landslides.Mr. Somare called on industrialized nations to slash their greenhouse gas emissions and on those countries which have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol to do so.He said Papua New Guinea would play its part to stabilize the Earth’s climate by doing more to protect its reserves of tropical rainforest.In an address last night, Kiribati’s Vice-President Teima Onorio explained that her country is especially vulnerable to the impact of global warming because it consists of low-lying coral atolls.“For countries such as Kiribati, global warming and sea level rise are critical security issues,” she said.Although Ms. Onorio welcomed the support her country has received in adjusting to the changes wrought by global warming, she added “there is a limit to how far we can adapt.” Rising sea levels will affect Kiribati’s groundwater supply and gradually erode whatever land is available on its 33 islands, she noted.“Yes, we could always move inland to avoid the rising sea levels. But with our narrow islands if we move inland, too far we risk falling into either the lagoon or the ocean.”The Vice-President reiterated Kiribati’s long-standing call for a unified international response to global warming.“We have been disappointed with the lack of consensus on these critical environment issues. Indeed, we deplore the notion that economic growth should take precedence over environmental issues when the quest for that growth will threaten the very survival of some members of this Organization,” she said. read more