The Catastrophic Impact of Rising Oceans on the Pacific Islands
All over the world indigenous communities are faced with an array of new problems, though the public continues to gain insight into the lives of these people they continue to be marginalized in the global arena as well. The Pacific Islands are an entity far removed from the minds of most westerners. The primary focus of any political discourse within the United States places most emphasis on Australia and New Zealand ignoring the smaller less politically salient states. However, it is these smaller islands that will bare the brunt of one huge problem in the future, global warming. For the purpose of this paper I will ignore the polemics of global warming and not hypothesize whether or not it actually has any permanent adverse effects on the ecosystems of the world or whether or not it is cyclical. Instead, I will focus on the evidence already documented within the Pacific Island states, evidence which lends strong support to the notion that the earth is getting warmer and the oceans are rising. For the people of the lowland Pacific Islands it doesn’t matter if the current warming is a temporary trend that will reverse itself in a few centuries, they will have to deal with it on a much more short-term basis. The ocean has already begun to change and for the people of the Pacific Islands that is a major concern, it could be catastrophic if left unattended. The prospect of rising waters in the oceans has a transcendent effect on the Pacific Islands. Not only will the oceans rise and the seas become more torrent, their very cultures could be uprooted and their modes of existence forever changed.
Recently a new study conducted by the National Oceanographic Data Center in Silver Spring, Maryland presented definitive evidence of global warming. Their analysis which came out in march documents one of the Pacific Islanders greatest fears, the oceans are getting warmer. Not only have increased temperatures been noticed on dry-land but also in the oceans, which is even more frightening. It is worse because the oceans absorb a lot of the atmospheric heat if it weren’t for that the land temperatures would be even higher. And with the polar ice caps receding the mean oceanic sea level is also rising.
Speaking strictly in terms of the next hundred years the islands with the lowest altitudes are of greatest concern in regard to swelling oceans. Low-lying island states and atolls are especially vulnerable to climate change and associated sea-level rise because in many cases much of the terrain rarely exceeds 3-4m above present mean sea level. This is not to say that the other higher islands will escape unscathed from rising sea levels. For them the problem isn’t necessarily complete immersion but the alteration of costal zones is of concern. It is in these regions that most of the main settlements are and a majority of the vital economic infrastructures, making them very vulnerable.