I’ve never been completely comfortable using the fate of small island states — places like Tuvalu and Kiribati and the Seycelles that might be the first to go under as sea levels rise — as poster kids for the consequences of climate change. For one thing, as difficult as it would be for their populations to abandon their homes, there’s just not that many people involved, and so there was never any real chance that their pleas would have much of an effect on industrialized countries. The reality is people react to threats to their own quality of life, not those facing a tiny group on the other side of the planet.
Now comes research in Global and Planetary Change that suggests small island states, many of which are coral atolls, aren’t as susceptible to rising sea levels as many had thought. In “The dynamic response of reef islands to sea-level rise: Evidence from multi-decadal analysis of island change in the Central Pacific,” Paul Kench of the University of Auckland in New Zealand and Arthur Webb at the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission in Fiji look at how 27 atoll islands fared over a few decades during which sea level rose by 2 mm a year.
What did they find?
Continue reading “A reprieve for the small island states?”