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High tide on Tarawa Atoll.
Photo: Chris Johnson

January 31, 2001
Global Warming
  Real Audio
  28k   56k

Log Transcript

This is Genevieve Johnson talking to you from Tarawa atoll in the distant and little known country of Kiribati. The islands making up the nation of Kiribati, are low lying coral atolls, which, in the not-too-distant future, may well attain the much unwanted notoriety of being among one of the first countries to be affected disastrously, or destroyed entirely by the unavoidable rise in sea-level which scientists believe global warming will bring.

Since the industrial revolution in the 18th century, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has risen dramatically. It is theorized by many scientists that global warming is a direct result of the proportional increase in the release of these gases, which include carbon dioxide from the burning of forests, and overuse of fossil fuels such as gasoline, diesel oil, and coal. These organic fuels combine with Oxygen and to produce Carbon dioxide, which reduces the loss of heat to space, dramatically increasing the earth's natural greenhouse effect. Many Scientists, including the United Nations panel on Climate Change (which includes 2,500 of the world's top climate scientists) now believe that the increase in the earth's temperature we are experiencing, is caused in major part by human activities. In 2000 this panel drafted a document saying "there is now stronger evidence for human influence" and revised upward how warm the earth is going to get. As the report states, the last decade was certainly the warmest in 1,000 years. In 1995, the international climate group projected a 1.8 to 6.3 degree Fahrenheit increase in average global temperature between 1990 to 2100. The new draft predicts a rise of 2.7 to 10.8. While the numbers seem small, they refer to averages, variations will be much more extreme locally with some areas predicting a rise in sea level of several feet. The most obvious effects of global warming will be experienced first by island nations such as those in the tropical Pacific-countries such as Kiribati and the Marshall Islands. It will be experienced in the form of rising sea levels resulting from thermal expansion of the ocean water due to heating, as well as the breaking up and melting of polar ice caps which will put more water into the ocean. Ice shelves in the Antarctic have already started to break off.

Baranika Etuati.
Photo: Chris Johnson

Today while at the Ministry for Environment, we met and spoke with Baranika Etuati, the officer in charge of the Environment Division and a Hydro-geologist who studies sea level rise.

    "Global warming is not something that everybody understands in Kiribati, nor climate change. In Kiribati, especially in Tarawa, we experience quite a lot of coastal erosion. Discussions are driven toward economy rather than to the environmental integrity of most countries.

    The small island states frustration, is in trying to get the bigger countries to recognize how important this condition is to us. Those countries who are responsible for the climate change, must realize there are certain countries very vulnerable to climate change impact. What they are doing is affecting us, so it is costing our lives. They need to contribute just a little and reduce their own emissions; this is the primary cause of global warming. If they can just change for a better way of life, for our benefit, if they can change their ways, they can save other peoples lives."

At their most dire, the predictions for the effects of global warming may include the inundation of coastal communities, entire cities, and, in some cases (such as Kiribati and the Marshall Islands) entire nations.

Baranika explained that in Kiribati, the effects are already evident through flooding and coastal erosion. Further increase in sea level rise may result in further loss of land and infrastructure, as well as loss of aquaculture and agriculture, followed by freshwater contamination, and ultimately the need for the entire population to emigrate to other countries, thus risking the loss of their unique culture. It is deeply sad to think that countries like Kiribati may not survive this century.

Log by Genevieve Johnson

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