Friday, October 14, 2016

Residents are leaving the Marshall Islands, but not because of climate change

See About Those Non-Disappearing Pacific Islands by Bjorn Lomborg writing for the WSJ.
"Using historic aerial photographs and high-resolution satellite imagery, Auckland University scientists Murray Ford and Paul Kench recently analyzed shoreline changes on six atolls and two mid-ocean reef islands in the Marshall Islands. Their peer-reviewed study, published in the September 2015 issue of Anthropocene, revealed that since the middle of the 20th century the total land area of the islands has actually grown.

How is that possible? It seems self-evident that rising sea levels will reduce land area. However, there is a process of accretion, where coral broken up by the waves washes up on these low-lying islands as sand, counteracting the reduction in land mass. Research shows that this process is overpowering the erosion from sea-level rise, leading to net land-area gain.

This is not only true for the Marshall Islands. The researchers write that within the “recently emerging body of shoreline change studies on atoll islands there is little evidence of widespread reef island erosion. To the contrary, several studies have documented noteworthy shoreline progradation [growth] and positional changes of islands since the mid-20th century, resulting in a net increase in island area.” The most famous of these studies, published in 2010 by Paul Kench and Arthur Webb of the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission in Fiji, showed that of 27 Pacific islands, 14% lost area. Yet 43% gained area, with the rest remaining stable."

"Some 52.7% of the Marshall Islands population lives below the poverty line, according to the Asian Development Bank. Only 39.3% of the population age 15 years and above is employed. In its 2015 human-rights report on the island nation, the U.S. State Department said that significant problems include “chronic government corruption, and chronic domestic violence,” along with “child abuse, sex trafficking, and lack of legal provisions protecting worker’s rights.” Marshallese citizens also have an easy immigration pathway to America and can live, work and study in the U.S. without a visa.

It is understandable why Marshall Island leaders might prefer to talk about global warming. But blaming today’s emigration on rising seas does a disservice to all."

"even if every nation were to fulfill all their carbon-cutting promises by 2030 and stick to them all the way through the century—at a cost of more than $100 trillion in lost GDP—global temperature rise would be reduced by a tiny 0.3°F (0.17°C)."

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