Sunday, September 20, 2015
The vanishing island (?)
The excerpt below is part of a big and colorful feature in the Sydney Morning Herald. It claims that a small island in the Pacific is being swamped by global warming -- but gives no actual proof of that. Since the satellites have detected no global warming for over 18 years now, that would be very difficult to do.
A careful reading of the article reveals two things: 1). It is tsunamis that are the main problem for the islanders; and: 2). There has been a sea level rise in that part of the Pacific which is much greater than the global average.
So here comes my favorite weapon: Logic. If the water level rise is not global, how can it be an effect of global warming? It is clearly a local effect due to variations in ocean currents and the like. And as a LOCAL effect, it has nothing to do with GLOBAL warming.
OK. What I have just said is probable rather than logically entailed but there would need to be evidence of some process linking the two phenomena. But since one of the phenomena does not even exist, that would be hard. The SMH does not attempt one.
So what we have below is just the usual dishonest propaganda that we so often get from Left-leaning rags like the SMH. They do pull their punches to a degree at one point but an uncritical reader would conclude that the fate of the island is tied to global warming --JR
Taro Island: a sometimes picturesque coral atoll adrift in the ocean at the north-western tip of the Solomon Islands.
Barely a kilometre long and less across and almost none of it more than two metres above sea level, it is barely a smudge on a map. Yet this smudge - with its nearly 600 permanent residents, its hospital, churches (four), school, police station and courthouse - is set to take an unwanted place in history. Though tiny, it is the capital of the province of Choiseul. Soon it may be the first provincial capital in the world to be abandoned due to climate change.
In the wash of environmental and geopolitical changes that flow from the warming of the planet, Taro is a drop in the ocean. But it is also an early marker of what lies ahead. As Peter Dutton joked with Tony Abbott about water lapping at the doors of Pacific Islanders, the people of Taro were weighing warnings that their home would be among the first - of dozens? hundreds? thousands? - of largely blameless communities swallowed by the ocean as sea levels rise.
Plans have been drawn up. The people are ready. But they have a nagging question. Who will pay the hundreds of millions needed to make it happen? They are waiting for an answer.
Roswita Nowak already knows what it’s like to abandon her home; she’s done it three times.
Shortly after 8am on April 2, 2007, the mother of eight was making the short stroll from her home at Taro’s northern end to her work in a government office when she was distracted by an unfamiliar sound. “I looked down [toward the village centre] and could see people running, and then I heard this ‘sssshhhh’, and saw the water rushing. Then there was shouting: ‘Tsunami! Tidal wave!’ Everyone started to panic, running. People were shouting, ‘We have to go, leave everything, we’re going now.’ And for the women, the first thing we thought of was our children.”
While others headed for boats on the shore, Nowak dashed for home - a slightly raised four-room house where she had left six of her kids minutes before. She calmed them best she could, and waited. “I was shaking.”
Soon her husband, Fleming, a police officer, arrived. He said, “The boat is ready, let’s go.” Their 15-year-old son, Stanislaus, picked up his five-year-old sister, Helena, and everyone ran to the beach at the atoll’s north, where a dinghy was waiting. “We got into the boat,” Nowak remembers, “and immediately the tide went out and we just sat there on the dry seafloor and had to wait for the water to come back in, not knowing what it would do.”
They were lucky. The water came back forcefully enough to lift them but not tip them out. So they headed about two kilometres east across rough seas to the Choiseul mainland and scrambled up a hill to a small camp used by a logging company.
The evacuation of Taro was messy. There weren’t enough boats so it took more than two hours of trips back and forth. Some people were dropped off on an exposed coral reef, only for the oscillating sea to return and swamp them up to their chests as they tried to walk to the shore. The town’s people relocated to the jungle logging camp for five days, largely exposed to the elements. Other parts of the country were much less fortunate. The tsunami, triggered by an earthquake about 160 kilometres south, killed 52.
The island has been evacuated twice more since, during heavy seismic activity in a week in April last year. To some extent, this is the risk that comes with life in a low-lying area dissected by geological fault lines. But the advice from scientists and hard-headed officials is that the risk is worsening rapidly.
Satellite data suggests sea levels in the south-west Pacific are rising up to five times faster than the global average - 7.7 millimetres a year in the capital Honiara, to the south, and up to 16.8 millimetres a year in the ocean to the country’s north.....
As always, climate change driven by greenhouse gases is interacting here with natural forces. Separating the two isn’t necessarily straightforward, but scientists say the human hand is already evident.
They cannot say with confidence that tropical cyclones in the area will become more intense due to climate change, but they know that storms are heading further south. When we arrive, the people of Choiseul are counting the cost of tropical cyclone Raquel, which took at least one life and destroyed homes, palm plantations and seaweed crops at the start of July. Along Taro’s shore, recently felled trees lie in the ocean waiting to be cleaned up.
It is, by several months, the latest in the season a cyclone has hit the area - a reflection, meteorologists say, of changing atmospheric patterns and ocean temperatures being the warmest on record.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).