Islands in danger

As you have heard on the media, a 10-day Climate Control Conference attended by representatives of 180 countries is being held in Montreal. The aim: how to cut greenhouse gas emissions further  and slow their impacts.

However, if new research is to be believed, there is nothing to be done to save small islands from being destroyed by  global warming –the result of the impact of green house gases in the atmosphere. In fact, a large part of the land territory of Seychelles will be underwater by the end of this century.

By the end of the 21st century, it is now known that sea levels would have risen by almost half a meter around the world thus covering low lying areas like the coral islands as well as the “plateaus” on the granite islands. You may think this is going to take a long time and anyway who cares because it won’t be in our lifetime! But it is estimated that rising tides tied in with other changes in climate such as increases in storm frequencies over the next two to five decades will lead to coastal erosion, flooding and destruction of property.

These new findings were made from taking core samples from the coastal zone of the US. The cores were taken by drilling up to 500 metres down into sediment and rock. By using dating techniques they have established where beaches and dry land were located over the past 100 years.

It was found that in the past 150 years sea levels rose at 2 millimeters annually as compared to about 1 millimeter over the previous 5000 years. It is believed that the rapid change is due to the increase  in greenhouse gas emissions from industry and transport.
Further bad news is that there is apparently little anyone can do to slow or stop the rise in sea level. The world continues to warm because of carbon dioxide emissions and even if all countries, particularly the United States got on board the Kyoto accord, little will change. Levels of carbon dioxide are increasing in the atmosphere 200 times faster than could be caused by any natural process.

The Kyoto accord is concerned with carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases. The treaty, which went into effect early this year, calls on the 35 most industrialized nations to reduce their emissions by 2012 when Kyoto expires.

But now it seems this is all hot air, pardon the pun. Whatever is said and done in Montreal, sea levels will continue to rise. The Seychelles of the 22nd century will be radically different from that of today as Seychellois will only be able to live and work on about half of the land available today.

By Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles' CEO, published on The People Newspaper, Seychelles

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