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Rough Cut: Tuvalu: That Sinking Feeling
Background Facts and Related Links
Learn more about global climate changes, their impact on the international energy outlook, and more.

Background Facts

Tuvalu, the fourth smallest nation in the world, is made up of nine tiny islands in the South Pacific; five are coral atolls, the other four are independent islands. Located between Hawaii and Australia, the country is populated by Polynesian people who settled the islands 2,000 years ago. With fewer than 12,000 inhabitants, Tuvalu's population is less than any independent nation's, excluding Vatican City.

Most inhabitants speak Tuvaluan, but due to many years as a British colony, English is also an official language in Tuvalu. In 1978, the nation gained independence from the UK.

Environmental Concerns

Tuvalu has no streams or rivers and therefore, almost no potable water. The land isn't suitable for most agriculture, and there are no known mineral resources. In addition to these challenges, the low-lying islands have been feeling the effects of global warming. At present, the highest point in Tuvalu is 15 feet above sea level, and on average, the land rises only six feet above the sea.

Furthermore, the beachfront has diminished by ten feet over the past decade as sand has been used for building materials. On Funafuti, the capital, many artificial lagoons have formed as a result of land extraction by American forces who built a runway during World War II.

A small island off of Funafuti has already disappeared beneath the sea and in some areas, islanders must grow crops in tins because the soil has become too salty.

Some Tuvaluans have begun to evacuate to New Zealand or to Niue, an island that is part of New Zealand but because of its distance from the mainland is self-governing. Niue is not threatened by rising tides but has been suffering from decreasing population as inhabitants steadily move to New Zealand.

Climate change is only one part of the problem. The clearance of forest undergrowth for use as fuel, degradation of coral reefs by crown-of-thorns starfish, and rapid population growth - now double that of 1980 - have also accelerated environmental damage.

The future of Tuvalu may be dependent on whether or not the world's nations can slow global warming. Some local politicians and scientists predict that in 50 years Tuvalu will not exist. The residents of the six Carteret atolls, also in the Pacific, just became the first people officially evacuated as a result of climate change. Tuvaluans are still holding out hope that they won't be the next.

Sources: BBC News, CIA Factbook, The Guardian, Wikipedia

Related Links

Canada Climate Conference
Montreal is hosting a United Nations Climate Change Conference from November 28 to December 9, 2005. This site provides links to conference discussion papers, Power Point presentations, and event webcasts.

CBC News Indepth: Kyoto And Beyond
The CBC presents extensive background on the Kyoto Protocol and information on the goals of the Montreal conference. Find links here to FAQs about the Kyoto Protocol, facts and figures, and CBC's Kyoto coverage.

Tuvalu Overview
All about Tuvalu, packed with local information, news, history, legends, and photos.

Who's The Smallest Of Them All?
Tuvalu is the fourth-smallest country in the world. Want to know the others?

Pacific Migration Hurdles
What do Pacific Islanders face if they decide to try and come to New Zealand via the Pacific Access Category? The New Zealand Immigration Service explains the requirements for its new immigration program, which starts with an electronic lottery and ends (if all goes well) with the right to permanent residency in New Zealand.

Climate-Change Charts
Figures and graphs from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Sea-level rise, CO2 emissions, it's all here.

Watch Key West Vanish
If the sea level goes up by 1 meter (about three feet), how would our coastlines change? This site has links to a series of maps created by researchers at the University of Arizona's Department of Geosciences. Coastal areas disappear in Florida, New Orleans, and the Northeastern seaboard, as well as other places around the world.

Counting Carbons
An excellent Discover magazine article about the author's quest to calculate his personal CO2 emissions.

The International Energy Outlook 2005
This site for the International Energy Outlook 2005 projects a doubling of world energy consumption by 2025, and an increase in world oil use from 78 million barrels per day in 2002 to 119 million barrels per day in 2025.

Robert Hirsch's report for the U.S. Department of Energy
A report on "oil peaking" - the point when world demand for oil will exceed the world's supply. It's coming sooner than you think.

Fighting Back With Third World Solar Panels
The Solar Electric Lighting Fund is a non-profit organization that reduces global CO2 emissions by providing solar panels to Third World countries. A $100 donation can reduce 10 tons of CO2 emissions (the average amount of CO2 that an American produces in one year), for an individual approach to carbon credits.