human activity and the destruction of the planet

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Global Heating and Climate Breakdown: a report from Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR)


Bill McGuire, Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards, University College London, argued at the Responsible Science conference that mainstream climate science reports downplay the scale of the threats currently faced, especially from sea-level rise, extreme heat, shutdown of the Gulf Stream, and increased seismic activity. Here he spells out why.

Article from Responsible Science journal, no.2; online publication: 6 July 2020

Also to be found on the website of SGR, of which Bill McGuire is a patron:

“A very fine line separates alarmism from what a risk expert colleague of mine likes to refer to comically as Compulsive Risk Assessment Psychosis (CRAP) – scaremongering as it is otherwise known. This distinction applies to global heating and ensuing climate breakdown as much as anything else; probably more so given the imminent and desperately serious ramifications of the climate emergency. My concern, however, is that – up until now at least – the message reaching the ears of both the great and the good, and the general public, is simply not alarmist enough. We have alarms for a reason, after all, they save lives. What I mean by this is that it doesn’t set the alarm bells ringing about just how bad things could get as hothouse Earth becomes an ever more likely reality.

In other words, the picture that people see and take on board, of what a broken climate will look like, is not complete. It ensures that the general view of the global heating threat is watered down, one that fails to encompass scenarios involving more deleterious impacts on society. In so doing, a sense of false security is engendered and the ‘call to arms’ to tackle global heating, diminished.

The problem can be traced to the very top. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) undoubtedly has done vital work in building understanding and appreciation of the global heating threat, flagging likely future scenarios, and signalling what needs to be done, and how quickly – to stave off the worst of climate breakdown. Without it we would already be in a very dark place indeed. But there are downsides too.

The IPCC’s periodic reports are conservative and compiled to reflect a broad consensus. This means that they fail to address global heating and climate breakdown scenarios that, although currently regarded by the climate science community as less likely, are – nonetheless – perfectly possible. Because the IPCC reports form the climate bible that drives news stories in the press and broadcast media, this incomplete picture is – inevitably – the one pitched to the public.

The blame cannot, however, be placed at the door of the IPCC. Every report it publishes is scrutinised line-by-line by representatives of all 197 nations and groupings signed up to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These include the United States, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Russia and others, who have a history of playing down the climate emergency. As a matter of course, objections are raised to any elements of the text that such signatories regard as pushing too far the envelope of what global heating and climate breakdown might bring. As a consequence, much peer-reviewed climate change science fails to make the reports and, as a consequence, goes largely unnoticed by most of the media and the public.

Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the area of future sea-level rise. In its 2019 Special Report on the Oceans and Cryosphere (SROCC)1, the IPPC’s worst case likely range for sea-level rise by the period 2081-2100 is 51 – 92cm, with a figure of up to 110cm provided for 2100. In stark contrast, peer-reviewed research, not addressed in the report, forecasts that more rapid break-up of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could see global sea levels 292cm higher by the end of the century2. Such an order of rise is supported by polar ice melt doubling times at the lower end of the 10-40 year range3 and by a tripling in the rate of Antarctic ice loss between 2012 and 20174. If maintained, such a tripling time of five years would see sea level climbing by around 5cm a year by the mid 2040s.

Another possible consequence of global heating that is underplayed in the IPCC reports is the collapse of the Gulf Stream and associated currents – known in oceanographic circles as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). In the aforementioned 2019 SROCC report, the IPCC recognises that ‘…the AMOC has weakened relative to 1850-1900….’ but that there is ‘….insufficient data to quantify the magnitude of weakening…’ or to ‘…properly attribute it to anthropogenic forcing.’ The report goes on to say that the ‘….AMOC is projected to weaken in the 21st century….although collapse is very unlikely.’ Other research, reported in a range of peer-reviewed papers is, however, more worrying. The strength of the AMOC has declined by 15 percent since the mid-nineteenth century and is now at its weakest for 1500 years and probably since it last collapsed 11,500 years ago5,6. Shutdown, should it occur, could happen extremely rapidly, perhaps over the course of just a year or two, leading to major cooling of the North Atlantic region and serious knock-on effects on sea level and weather patterns.

In it’s 5th Assessment Report, published in 20147, the IPCC notes that ‘…it is very likely that heat waves will occur with a higher frequency and duration.’ It does not, however, say anything about the terrifying prospect of so-called humid heat waves. These arise when the wet bulb temperature – a measure of the combination of heat and humidity – reaches 35°C. Such conditions, if sustained, are unsurvivable, so that even a fit and healthy human in the shade has only about six hours to live. The required combination of heat and humidity has not been encountered in modern times, but the conditions were almost met in parts of Iran in July 2015. Looking ahead, the second half of the century is forecast to see humid heat waves affecting the Ganges and Indus valleys of South Asia8, the Persian Gulf and China. Most at risk is the North China Plain, where widespread irrigation is predicted to contribute to the occurrence of humid heat waves later this century that could affect up to 400 million people under a business as usual emissions scenario9.

Other elements of global heating and climate breakdown research are omitted from IPCC publications too, or at least soft-peddled. The key question then, is how can this information be made generally available and how can it’s profile be raised so as to present a more complete picture of what a hotter world might look like. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an easy solution. One way forward might be for the IPCC to openly acknowledge the existence of relevant and important peer-reviewed research that supports non-consensus findings, and to publish this material in addenda to the main reports. This would, or course, require the agreement of the signatories of the UNFCCC, which is likely to prove difficult, if not impossible.

Another way forward could be the establishment of an independently-vetted, non-political website, perhaps validated by national academies of science, on which peer-reviewed research findings not included – for one reason or another – in IPCC publications, could be lodged.

Building a more complete picture – for both stakeholders and the public – of what global heating and climate breakdown could mean, would also benefit from more climate scientists sticking their heads above the parapet and saying in public, what they currently reserve for private conversations. Many climate scientists clearly have an issue with telling it like it is, as high-lighted in a recent analysis10.

This showed that later observations of the climate system (e.g. ice extent and sea-level rise) were typically worse than earlier predictions made by climate scientists, and that key climate indicators were often underestimated. The study also unearthed a general feeling within the climate science community that it needed to give the impression of univocality – speaking with one voice – and a consensus outlook. The analysis also revealed that – when the world is watching – climate scientists worry about how they will be perceived. Taken together, all this means that most researchers working on global heating and climate breakdown tend to play down worst-case scenarios, thereby presenting an unrepresentative picture of their impacts and consequences. What the climate science community should be doing is not making consensus a goal. If it exists, it will emerge in its own right. If it doesn’t, then clear differences of opinion need to be acknowledged and clarified. The time for sweeping inconvenient research findings under the carpet and keeping heads down for fear of reputational damage or derision are long gone. We all have a right of access to the complete picture of the world our children and grandchildren could inherit. Failing to provide this may well mean that the actions we take in this critical decade fall short of what is needed to avoid catastrophic, all-pervasive, climate breakdown.”


Bill McGuire’s novel – SKYSEED – an eco-thriller about geoengineering gone wrong, is published in September 2020.


1 IPCC 2019, Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

2 Le Bars, D. et al. 2017 A high-end sea-level rise probabilistic projection including rapid Antarctic Ice Sheet mass loss. Environmental Research Letters 12.

3 Hansen, J. et al. 2016 Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming could be dangerous. Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 3761-3812.

4 The IMBIE Team 2018 Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet 1992 – 2017. Nature, 558, 219-222.

5 Caesar, L. et al. 2018 Observed fingerprint of a weakening Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation. Nature 556, 191 – 196.

6 Thornalley, D. J. R. et al. 2018 Anomalously weak Labrador Sea convection and Atlantic overturning during the past 150 years. Nature 556, 227-230.

7 IPCC 2013-14 5th Assessment Report.

8 Im, E., Pal, J. S & Eltahir, E. A. B. 2017 Deadly heatwaves projected in the densely populated agricultural regions of South Asia. Science Advances 3 (8), e1603322.

9 Kang, S. & Eltahir, E. A. B. 2018 North China Plain threatened by deadly heatwaves due to climate change and irrigation. Nature Communications Article 2894.

10 Oppenheimer, M. et al. 2019 Discerning experts: the practices of scientific assessment for environmental policy. University of Chicago Press. 304pp.


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Earth’s Oceans bearing the brunt of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide

A new IPPC report outlines how oceans and marine life are responding to climate change:

The world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Throughout history, oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation.

Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future. However, at the current time, there is a continuous deterioration of coastal waters owing to pollution and ocean acidification is having an adversarial effect on the functioning of ecosystems and biodiversity. This is also negatively impacting small scale fisheries.


Marine protected areas need to be effectively managed and well-resourced and regulations need to be put in place to reduce overfishing, marine pollution and ocean acidification.

Even if all human carbon-releasing activities ceased immediately, the overheated oceans will continue to heat the rest of earth’s already overheated overcrowded ecosystem for decades and possibly centuries.

Facts and figures:

  • Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97 per cent of the Earth’s water, and represent 99 per cent of the living space on the planet by volume.
  • Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods.
  • Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about 5 per cent of global GDP.
  • Oceans contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions.
  • Oceans absorb about 30 per cent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming.
  • Oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, with more than 3 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein
  • Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people.
  • Subsidies for fishing are contributing to the rapid depletion of many fish species and are preventing efforts to save and restore global fisheries and related jobs, causing ocean fisheries to generate US$50 billion less per year than they could.
  • Open Ocean sites show current levels of acidity have increased by 26 per cent since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
  • Coastal waters are deteriorating due to pollution and eutrophication. Without concerted efforts, coastal eutrophication is expected to increase in 20 percent of large marine ecosystems by 2050.

Eutrophication is excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other body of water, frequently due to run-off from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life.

ocean zones

At the Ocean conference in September 2019, climate experts said:

Our oceans and frozen spaces have been “taking the heat” for global warming for decades, and warned that without a radical change in human behaviour, hundreds of millions of people could suffer from rising sea levels, frequent natural disasters and food shortages.”

“The ocean is warmer, more acidic and less productive”, the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states. “Melting glaciers and ice sheets are causing sea level rise, and coastal extreme events are becoming more severe.”

According to the IPCC report on the ocean and cryosphere – the frozen parts of the planet – global warming has already reached one degree Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

This temperature rise, which the 195-strong Member State body attributes to greenhouse gas emissions, has resulted in “profound consequences” for people and the planet.

“The world’s ocean and cryosphere have been ‘taking the heat’ from climate change for decades, and consequences for nature and humanity are sweeping and severe,” said Ko Barrett, Vice-Chair of the IPCC.

In total, 670 million people who live in the world’s high mountain regions and around the same number in low-lying coastal zones “depend directly” on the planet’s oceans and frozen resources, the IPCC notes.

In addition, four million people live permanently in the Arctic region, and small island developing states are home to 65 million people.

In a bid to protect them, their surroundings and livelihoods, the IPCC is calling for the introduction of measures to limit global warming “to the lowest possible level”, in line with the internationally agreed 2015 Paris Agreement.

“If we reduce emissions sharply, (the) consequences for people and their livelihoods will still be challenging, but potentially more manageable for those who are most vulnerable”, said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “The open sea, the Arctic, the Antarctic and the high mountains may seem far away to many people. But we depend on them and are influenced by them directly and indirectly in many ways – for weather and climate, for food and water, for energy, trade, transport, recreation and tourism, for health and wellbeing, for culture and identity.”

According to the IPCC report, average sea level rise is now 3.6 millimetres a year.

This is more than twice as fast as during the last century and levels could rise more than a metre by 2100 “if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase strongly”.

The result is likely to be more extreme sea level events that occur during high tides and intense storms. “Indications are that with any degree of additional warming, events that occurred once per century in the past, will occur every year by mid-century in many regions, increasing risks for many low-lying coastal cities and small islands”, the report states.

Without major investments in adaptation, these low-lying zones would be exposed to escalating flood risks, and some island nations “are likely to become uninhabitable”.

Glaciers could shrink 80 per cent, by 2100

Highlighting the importance of coordinated, ambitious and urgent action to mitigate the impact of global warming, the IPCC report also warns that glaciers, snow, ice and permafrost are declining “and will continue to do so”.

In Europe, eastern Africa, the tropical Andes and Indonesia, smaller glaciers are projected to lose more than 80 per cent of their current ice mass by 2100, under worst emission scenarios.

This is likely to increase hazards for people, for example through landslides, avalanches, rockfalls and floods, in addition to farmers and hydroelectric power producers downstream.

“Changes in water availability will not just affect people in these high mountain regions, but also communities much further downstream”, said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC’s Working Group I.

melting glaciers

Sea ice getting thinner every month

On sea ice, the IPCC report underscores that the extent of Arctic ice has declined every month, “and it is getting thinner”.

If global warming can be kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the Arctic ocean would only be ice-free in September once in every 100 years, the study suggests. At two degrees Celsius, however, this would occur up to one year in three.

“Some people living in the Arctic, especially indigenous peoples, have already adjusted their travelling and hunting activities to the seasonality and safety of land, ice and snow conditions, and some coastal communities have planned for relocation,” the report states.

Permafrost ‘warming and thawing’

Turning to permafrost – ground that has been frozen for many years – the IPCC suggests that it is “warming and thawing and widespread permafrost thaw is projected to occur in the 21st Century”.

Even if global warming is limited to well below two degrees Celsius below pre-industrial levels, around a quarter of the permafrost down to three to four metres depth, will thaw by 2100.

If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase strongly, there is a potential that around 70 per cent this near-surface permafrost could be lost.

In writing the report, more than 100 authors from 36 countries assessed the latest scientific literature on the ocean and cryosphere, basing their findings on some 7,000 scientific publications.

It will provide input for world leaders gathering in forthcoming climate and environment negotiations, such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Chile, in December.

And a Guardian report on this issue:

“Extreme sea level events that used to occur once a century will strike every year on many coasts by 2050, no matter whether climate heating emissions are curbed or not, according to a landmark report by the world’s scientists.

The stark assessment of the climate crisis in the world’s oceans and ice caps concludes that many serious impacts are already inevitable, from more intense storms to melting permafrost and dwindling marine life.

But far worse impacts will hit without urgent action to cut fossil fuel emissions, including eventual sea level rise of more than 4 metres in the worst case, an outcome that would redraw the map of the world and harm billions of people.”

Another WordPress blogger has come up with the idea of sequestering carbon dioxide by planting kelp forests in a deserted part of the South Pacific.

Maximum carbon sequestration.

Here is a quote from this site:

“The South Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and South America is at present ocean desert. In fact, it is the world’s largest ocean desert at around 37 million square km. It is far from any landmass and a lack of dust and minerals means there is very little life to be found. Growing a kelp forest ecosystem in this area would transform it from a desert into a teeming mass of life as well as providing Carbon sequestration on a truly massive scale. I suggest that every kelp plant grown in this forest could be free-floating and attached to its own simple bamboo buoy, ( The Peel Technique ).

How would the approach work?. Vast forests of both bamboo and kelp will be required.  Land based bamboo plantations would be used to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, produce oxygen and restore degraded lands. The bamboo plantations would also supply the kelp buoy production factories with the bamboo that they require. The bamboo buoys would be used to assist young kelp plants to float in deep ocean waters. The buoys would also carry the minerals that the growing kelp plants require to survive.”

And from the UK Government’s website:

While attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, International Environment Minister, Zac Goldsmith, announced on 24th September that ten countries have signed up to a UK-led initiative to safeguard the world’s ocean and its wildlife. The initiative was endorsed by the Prime Minister, also at the United Nations General Assembly, and was welcomed by the environmental organisation Greenpeace UK.

The announcement received positive coverage on several international outlets: OceanographicBusiness Leader, Energy Live News, Brits in Kenya, and Seychelles State House Blog, as well as on social media, including a tweet from the Finnish Minister of Environment, Krista Mikkonen, who said: “We must live up to our promise of halting the loss of #biodiversity.”

The 30by30 initiative, which is pushing for at least 30 per cent of the global ocean to be protected in Marine Protected Areas by 2030, has been supported by 10 countries including:

  • Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • Finland
  • Gabon
  • Kenya
  • Seychelles
  • Vanuatu
  • Portugal
  • Palau, and
  • Belgium

Further details at:

Ten countries join UK’s leading 30by30 initiative to safeguard the world’s ocean

Here is another report on the issue from the Huffington Post:

“Heatwaves in the Ocean have doubled in the last thirty years

While the news has been filled with the types of heatwaves that we experience above sea level, the fact is the ocean suffers from the phenomenon as well.

In fact ocean heatwaves have roughly doubled in number over the last three decades and are already looking to become even more common and intense as the planet warms, research has found.

Prolonged periods of extreme heat in the oceans can damage kelp forests and coral reefs, and harm fish and other marine life.

To make matters worse, the oceans both absorb and release heat more slowly than air. This means that most marine heatwaves can last for at least several days — and some for several weeks, Dr Frolicher said.”


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UK business giants put fresh pressure on government over net-zero

A coalition of 128 UK-based businesses, industry networks and investors to have written to Ministers demanding that a net-zero target for 2050 is legislated “immediately”. The coalition includes BT, Coca-Cola European Partners and Sainsbury’s.

A letter was sent to Prime Minister Theresa May on 31st May.  The group was convened by The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG), the Aldersgate Group, and the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC).

Collectively, the letter’s 128 signatories represent more than seven million workers, as well as £20trn in assets under management across 190,000 businesses.

It calls on the Government to adopt the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC’s) recommendations on legislating for a net-zero carbon economy by 2050 in full, with immediate effect.

“By being the first major economy to legislate an ambitious, domestically achieved net-zero target supported by a comprehensive policy package, the UK can show leadership on a global level while strengthening the UK economy,” the letter states.

“This action would position the country as a strong host, as the UK bids for hosting COP26 – a critical moment in global action to tackle climate change and an opportunity to leave a legacy of clean growth across the UK. However, the credibility of a net-zero target relies on it being rapidly underpinned by a robust set of policies.”

The letter points out that many of its signatories have aligned themselves with the Paris Agreement, either by setting science-based emissions targets or pledging to achieve net-zero by mid-century, and urges the Government to follow suit. This move, the letter states, would help businesses deliver the “innovation and investment required” for a zero-carbon economy while ensuring that the low-carbon transition is “delivered fairly”.

Increasing pressure

Today’s letter is one of many to have been sent by businesses to policymakers to demand net-zero legislation since last October, when the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its landmark report on climate change. Last November, the bosses of Anglian Water, Coca-Cola European Partners, Danone, IAG, Interface, Scottish Power, Signify UK & Ireland, SSE, Thames Water Utilities and Unilever sent such a document to May’s office, while similar requests have also been penned to EU leaders.

The push for net-zero legislation has also been coming from MPs, with a group of more than 100 from across all major parties requesting pre-2050 climate-neutral policies before the IPCC even published its findings. Calls from the general public are additionally mounting, with the main demand of protestors during London’s recent Extinction Rebellion activism being net-zero by 2025 for the UK.

This week has seen a strengthening of these demands on May, who steps down from her post on 7 June after announcing her resignation last week. In tandem with the letter from the business community, a group of leading scientists has written to the Prime Minister arguing that her “legacy” could – and should – be the passing of net-zero legislation, rather than her failure to pass a Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Responding to the letters, a Government spokesperson said that a decision on the CCC’s recommendation will be made “in a timeframe which reflects the urgency of the issue”.



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An alarmists guide to climate change

This is an article written by Prof Bill McGuire of University College, London and published by Scientists for Global Responsibility, as well as in: Responsible Science journal, no.1; Advance online publication: 14 February 2019.

Below is copied in its entirety from SGR magazine:


Prof. Bill McGuire, University College London

“Have you noticed how the term ‘alarmist’ has been hijacked? In the context of climate breakdown, habitat and wildlife loss and other environmental issues, it has become synonymous with scaremongering; with the voice of doom. In certain circles it is frowned upon and judged to be a hindrance to getting the global warming message across. Iconic broadcaster David Attenborough is the latest to express the view that ‘alarmism’ in the context of the environment can be a ‘turn-off’ rather than a call to action. But are such viewpoints justified, especially when our world and our society teeter on the edge of catastrophe? After all, the simplest, most straightforward, meaning of an ‘alarmist’ is someone who raises the alarm. Is this not what we need now more than ever; to be told the whole story – warts and all? The alternative, it seems to me, is to play down the seriousness of our predicament; to send a message that is incomplete, and to conveniently avoid or marginalise predictions and forecasts that paint a picture regarded as too bleak for general consumption. Surely, this is the last thing we need at this critical time?

No-one could ever accuse the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of being alarmist. Because every sentence of IPCC report drafts is pored over by representatives of national governments – some of whom are lukewarm or even antagonistic to the whole idea of climate change – the final versions are inevitably conservative. The closest the IPCC has come to sounding an alarm bell can be found in its latest report Global Warming of 1.5ºC, published in October. Here it warns that emissions must be slashed within 12 years (by 2030) if there is to be any chance whatsoever of keeping the global average temperature rise (since pre-industrial times) below 1.5ºC, and fall to zero by 2050.

Notwithstanding the unlikelihood of achieving net zero global emissions in a little more than three decades, the pace and degree of climate change are about more than just anthropogenic emissions. They are also influenced by tipping points and positive feedback loops; sudden changes in the behaviour of ice sheets, carbon sources and sinks, and ocean currents, which can accelerate warming and its consequences way beyond the expected. Depressingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the latest IPCC report’s Summary for Policymakers [1] – let’s face it, the only bit likely to be read by the movers and shakers – includes just one brief mention of feedbacks and has nothing at all to say about tipping points. The justification for this appears to be that because it is not possible to assign levels of confidence to such known unknowns, they cannot be included. But it is difficult not to conclude that the real reason is to tone down the threat in order to appease those governments that view climate change as a nuisance that they would like to go away.

The decision to bury concerns over tipping points and feedbacks in the depths of the full report rather than flagging them in the Summary is nonsensical. Touting the critical importance of drastic action while at the same time soft peddling the threat has the potential to backfire, providing the obvious get out: well, if the situation is not so bad, maybe the response doesn’t need to be that urgent. If drastic, life-changing, action is being mooted, people need to know – have a right to know – why. They need to be presented with a complete picture showing how bad things might get – however scary or poorly constrained.

Bringing the potential consequences of tipping points and feedbacks into the equation inevitably transforms perceptions of the dangers we face. Suddenly, climate change ceases to be something vaguely inconvenient that we can leave future generations to deal with. Instead, it becomes far more of an immediate threat capable of tearing our world apart. Take sea level, for example. The IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report, [2] published in 2013 and 2014, predicts – for a worst-case scenario – that global mean sea level could be about a metre higher by the end of the century. Bad enough for millions of coastal dwellers, but nothing compared to what our descendants might experience if a tipping point is crossed that sees the Greenland and/or West Antarctic ice sheets start to disintegrate in earnest. Models that do incorporate this, point to sea level rising far more rapidly. One suggests that the ice loss in Antarctica could occur at a much faster rate than expected, leading to global average sea level being more than 3m higher at the end of the century. [3] Another, based upon correlations between temperature and sea levels during the last interglacial, which ended around 115,000 years ago, proposes that sea level – in theory at least – could climb by as much as 5m by 2100. [4]

Worrying evidence that we might be at a tipping point in Antarctica comes from a very recent study on the rate of ice loss from 2012 to 2017. During this five-year period, Antarctic ice loss shot up threefold, from 76 billion tonnes annually, to a colossal 219 billion tonnes. [5] In total, more than 2.7 trillion tonnes of Antarctic ice has melted in the last quarter century, adding three quarters of a centimetre to global sea level. At the new rate, the contribution over the next 25 years would be 1.5cm. Not enough to worry about in its own right. If, however, the rate of increase is maintained over this period, then the annual rise by 2043 would be close to a catastrophic five centimetres a year. And this is without the growing contribution from Greenland and from the increasing expansion of sea water as the oceans warm.

And there are other causes for serious concern too. None more so than the behaviour of the Gulf Stream and associated currents (together making up the AMOC – Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) that warm north-west Europe and also have a big influence on global weather patterns. In the distant past, surges of meltwater from shrinking ice sheets have caused the Gulf Stream to shut down. Now, it looks as if it might be in danger of doing so again as huge volumes of freshwater from the crumbling Greenland Ice Sheet pour into the North Atlantic, forming a so-called ‘cold blob’.

The IPCC’s official line is that another complete shutdown is ‘very unlikely’, but this is not the same as ruling it out. And there are certainly some worrying signs. The Gulf Stream has slowed by 15 – 20 percent since the middle of the 20th century and is now at its weakest for at least 1600 years. [6] The Gulf Stream has a tipping point, and – evidence from the past shows – can shut down in just a few years when this is crossed. The problem is that no-one knows when – or even if – this will happen. If it does, the ramifications will be sudden and widespread. The North Atlantic region will cool dramatically, particularly across the UK, Iceland and North West Europe, while sea ice will expand southwards (without, it should be emphasised, counteracting the trajectory of climate change). Sea-levels along the eastern seaboard of North America could rise at three to four times the global average rate. Further afield, changes to weather patterns are forecast to include a weakening of Indian and East Asian monsoons, which could have devastating consequences for crop yields. No-one is saying that the Gulf Stream is in imminent danger of collapse. Nonetheless, the threat is not insignificant, and as such should be soberly touted, not wilfully ignored.

Of the many and varied feedback loops and tipping points linked with rapid anthropogenic warming, perhaps the most disquieting involves the vast tracts of permafrost at high latitudes – both on land and beneath the sea. Trapped beneath this frozen crust are colossal quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas that has a warming effect 86 times greater than carbon dioxide. Fortunately, methane has a relatively short residence time in the atmosphere and breaks down to carbon dioxide within a few decades. Nonetheless, major outbursts of methane from the rapidly thawing permafrost are capable of causing climate mayhem with little or no warning. The geographic region of most concern is probably the submarine permafrost that floors the East Siberian Continental Shelf, where an estimated 1400 billion tonnes of carbon, in the form of methane, is lurking beneath a frozen carapace that is thawing rapidly.

According to Natalia Shakhova and colleagues, [7] as much as 50 billion tonnes of this is available for sudden release at any time, which would – at a stroke – hike the methane content of the atmosphere 12 times. According to a study published in 2013, [8] a discrete methane ‘burp’ on this scale, could advance global warming by 30 years and cost the global economy US$60 trillion – a figure close to four times the US national debt. Once again, the occurrence of such an outburst is far from a certainty and there are other issues to consider, including how much methane is absorbed by the ocean as it bubbles upwards. Notwithstanding this, there is a potential danger here that needs to be promulgated rather than hidden away, so that the scale of the climate change threat is clear to everyone.

So – to conclude – be alarmed; be very alarmed. But don’t let alarm feed inertia. Use it instead to galvanise action. For your children’s and their children’s sake, stand up and do something about it. Drastically change your lifestyle; become an activist; vote into power a government that will walk the walk on climate change, not just talk the talk. Or – preferably – all three.”
Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at University College London and a co-director of the New Weather Institute. His current book is Waking the Giant: how a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes. He is a signatory of an academics’ letter in support of the School Climate Strike.

1. IPCC (2018). Global Warming of 1.5°C. Summary for Policymakers.

2. IPCC (2014). Fifth Assessment Report.

3. Le Bars D. et al (2017). A high-end sea-level rise probabilistic projection including rapid Antarctic Ice Sheet mass loss. Environmental Research Letters, vol.12.

4. Hansen J. et al (2016). Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming could be dangerous. Atmos. Chem. Phys., vol.16, pp.3761-3812.

5. The IMBIE Team (2018). Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet 1992 – 2017. Nature, vol.558, pp.219-222.

6. Caesar L. et al (2018). Observed fingerprint of a weakening Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation. Nature, vol.556, pp.191-196.

7. Shakhova N.E. (2008). Anomalies of methane in the atmosphere over the East Siberian shelf. Geophysical Research Abstracts, vol.10, EGU2008-A-01526. Abstract.

8. Whiteman G., Hope C., Wadhams P. (2013). Vast costs of Arctic change. Nature, vol.499, pp.401–403.

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What was agreed at COP24 in Katowice, Poland?

The latest United Nations talks (UNFCC) at COP24 seem to have been engulfed in controversy.  The main agenda item was to put together a framework for different countries to implement in working towards their Paris 2015 targets. This included how governments will measure, report on and verify their emissions-cutting efforts, ensuring all countries are held to proper standards, which they will find it hard to wriggle out of.  However, they seem to have got bogged down with disagreements, mainly to do with carbon credits and carbon sinks.

Carbon credits are awarded to countries achieving their targets. Carbon sinks relate to forests, which absorb carbon dioxide.  Brazil, with its large rain forest cover, insisted on a change of wording but critics of this said it would lead to a form of double counting.  The issue was postponed for another year.

All of this took place within the scenario of the IPCC-commissioned October report, which warned that, allowing warming to reach 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, would have grave consequences, including the death of coral reefs and loss of many species.

Four countries joined forces to weaken the conclusions of the report.  These were: USA, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait who would only agree to the timing of the scientist’s report.  In addition, Brazil, with its new right-wing president, who is sceptical of climate concerns, withdrew its offer to host next year’s talks in Brazil.

However, 196 200 countries agreed to rules for how they’ll adhere to the Paris climate agreement. The rules define how nations will record their emissions and their progress toward climate goals.


President Michal Kurtyka celebrating the final agreement in Katowice

The poorest and most vulnerable countries felt that the final agreement demanded too little of industrialized countries, whilst expecting developing countries to agree on common reporting requirements to bring their climate promises into line with those of more developed countries. However, the richest countries must now be more open about their financial support to those countries most affected by global warming.

One of the downsides to the COP24 event was the hosting of a pro-coal fringe meeting, during the proceedings by the USA.  The only other country attending this meeting was Australia.  Perhaps not surprising in view of other postings on this site over the last two years.


Further reports on COP24 can be found at:

COP25 will be in Chile.


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15-year-old Girl Breaks Swedish Law for the Climate

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In August, Greta Thunberg skipped school to protest outside the Swedish Parliament about their inaction about climate change.


She was supposed to start school again after a long summer break. But instead of rejoining her classmates, she seated herself against the stone facade of the Swedish Parliament’s main building in central Stockholm.

The spot was well chosen, as many politicians, professionals and ordinary people pass by daily. Next to her, she placed a sign that read “School Strike for the Climate”. She also brought with her is a pile of leaflets, on which her demands had been clearly written.  She was later joined by other people, including a teacher.


In October, Greta came to London by electric car to join the launch of the Extinction Rebellion movement in Parliament Square, where she also gave a speech.  This is what she said:

“When I was about eight years old, I first heard about something called climate change, or global warming. Apparently, that was something humans had created by our way of living. I was told to turn off the lights to save energy and to recycle paper to save resources.

I remember thinking that it was very strange, that humans who are an animal species among others, could be capable of changing the earth’s climate. Because, if we were and if it was really happening, we wouldn’t be talking about anything else. As soon as you turned on the TV, everything would be about that. Headlines, radio, newspapers. You would never read or hear about anything else. As if there was a world war going on.

But. No one never talked about it.

If burning fossil fuels was so bad, that it threatened our very existence, how could we just continue like before? Why were there no restrictions? Why wasn’t it made illegal?

To me, that did not add up. It was too unreal.

I have Asperger’s syndrome, and to me, almost everything is black or white.

I think in many ways that we autistic are the normal ones and the rest of the people are pretty strange. They keep saying that climate change is an existential threat and the most important issue of all. And yet they just carry on like before. If the emissions have to stop then we must stop the emissions. To me, that is black or white. There are no grey areas when it comes to survival. Either we go on as a civilization or we don’t. We have to change.

Countries like Sweden and the UK need to start reducing emissions by at least 15% every year. And that is so that we can stay below a 2-degree warming target. Now the IPCC says that we have to aim for 1,5 degrees. So we can only imagine what that means. You would think every one of our leaders and the media would be talking about nothing else — but no one ever mentions it. Nor does anyone ever mention anything about the greenhouse gases already locked in the system, nor that air pollution is hiding a warming, so when we stop burning fossil fuels, we already have an extra 0,5 to 1,1 degrees celsius guaranteed.

Nor does hardly anyone ever mention that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, with about 200 species going extinct every single day.

Furthermore, does no one ever speak about the aspect of equity, or climate justice, clearly stated everywhere in the Paris agreement and the Kyoto protocol, which is absolutely necessary to make the Paris agreement work, on a global scale. That means that rich countries need to get down to zero emissions, within 6–12 years, so that people in poorer countries can heighten their standard of living by building some of the infrastructures that we have already built. Such as roads, hospitals, electricity, schools, and clean drinking water. Because how can we expect countries like India or Nigeria to care about the climate crisis if we, who already have everything, don’t care even a second about it or our actual commitments to the Paris agreement?

So, why are we not reducing our emissions? Why are they, in fact, still increasing? Are we knowingly causing a mass extinction? Are we evil?

No, of course not. People keep doing what they do because the vast majority doesn’t have a clue about the consequences of our everyday life. And they don’t know the rapid changes required.

Since, as I said before, no one talks about it. There are no headlines, no emergency meetings, no breaking news. No one is acting as if we were in a crisis. Even most green politicians and climate scientists go on flying around the world, eating meat and dairy.

If I live to be 100 I will be alive in the year 2103.

When you think about “the future” today, you don’t think beyond the year 2050. By then I will, in the best case, not even have lived half of my life. What happens next?

The year 2078 I will celebrate my 75th birthday.

What we do or don’t do, right now, will affect my entire life, and the lives of my children and grandchildren.

When school started in August this year I decided that this was enough. I sat myself down on the ground outside the Swedish parliament. I school strikes for the climate.

Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can ”solve the climate crisis”. But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.

And why should I be studying for a future that soon will be no more, when no one is doing anything whatsoever to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts within the school system when the most important facts given by the finest science of that same school system clearly means nothing to our politicians and our society?

A lot of people say that Sweden is just a small country and that it doesn’t matter what we do. But I think that if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school for a few weeks, imagine what we all could do together if we wanted to.

Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground.

So we can’t save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.

Everything needs to change. And it has to start today.

So everyone out there, it is now time for civil disobedience, it is time to rebel.”

Greta Thunberg

The above text is written by Greta Thunberg. It was published on the Extinction Rebellion website with Greta Thunberg’s approval.

Greta Thunberg at the ‘Declaration of Rebellion’, Parliament Square, London, UK.

January 25th 2019

Greta’s action has started a worldwide movement, with children on every continent (apart from Antarctica) striking to draw attention to climate change.  This week, she has travelled by train to Davos, accompanied by Swiss children, who are striking in this resort and others.  She will be speaking at the international summit in Davos, having already addressed the UN climate change COP 24 conference in Katowice, Poland.  Further details of her actions and those of children around the world can be found at:

gretathunberg in davos

Greta Thunberg in Davos


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New 2018 UN Report shows that climate change is worse than predicted

A new report, published by an international panel of climate scientists, describes the impact of global warming at 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels and compares the impact of global warming at 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. Basically, it is saying that 1.5ºC is the better target.  Indeed, a representative of the Marshall Islands is said to have reported that allowing global warming to reach 2º is genocide. But the report also points out how difficult it will be to keep warming below 1.5 degrees because of actions that have already been taken, so that too much carbon is already in the atmosphere.

There is now increasing use of the word anthropogenic, which means relating to, or resulting from the influence of human beings, on nature”.

A summary of the report, which was commissioned by the United Nations IPCC, can be found at:

Click to access sr15_spm_final.pdf

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Chair of the IPCC, Hoesung Lee (centre), speaks during a press conference on Oct 8 2018

Basically, the IPCC is now saying that the 1.5 ºC goal is technically and economically feasible, but it depends on political leadership to become reality.

The panel says capping global warming at 1.5 deg C above pre-industrial levels will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

Earth’s average surface temperature has already gone up about one degree, which has been enough to unleash a surge of deadly extreme weather – but it is on track to rise another two or three degrees unless there is a sharp and sustained reduction in carbon pollution.  This is demonstrated by the graphic below:



Below is part of the summary document.

A. Understanding Global Warming of 1.5°C
A1. Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. (high confidence) {1.2, Figure SPM.1}
A1.1. Reflecting the long-term warming trend since pre-industrial times, observed global mean surface temperature (GMST) for the decade 2006–2015 was 0.87°C (likely between 0.75°C and 0.99°C) higher than the average over the 1850–1900 period (very high confidence). Estimated anthropogenic global warming matches the level of observed warming to within ±20% (likely range). Estimated anthropogenic global warming is currently increasing at 0.2°C (likely between 0.1°C and 0.3°C) per decade due to past and ongoing emissions (high confidence). {1.2.1, Table 1.1, 1.2.4}
A1.2. Warming greater than the global annual average is being experienced in many land regions and seasons, including two to three times higher in the Arctic. Warming is generally higher over land than over the ocean. (high confidence) {1.2.1, 1.2.2, Figure 1.1, Figure 1.3, 3.3.1, 3.3.2}
A1.3. Trends in intensity and frequency of some climate and weather extremes have been detected over time spans during which about 0.5°C of global warming occurred (medium confidence). This assessment is based on several lines of evidence, including attribution studies for changes in extremes since 1950. {3.3.1, 3.3.2, 3.3.3}
A.2. Warming from anthropogenic emissions from the pre-industrial period to the present will persist for centuries to millennia and will continue to cause further long-term changes in the climate system, such as sea level rise, with associated impacts (high confidence), but these emissions alone are unlikely to cause global warming of 1.5°C (medium confidence) {1.2, 3.3, Figure 1.5, Figure SPM.1}
A2.1. Anthropogenic emissions (including greenhouse gases, aerosols and their precursors) up to the present are unlikely to cause further warming of more than 0.5°C over the next two to three decades (high confidence) or on a century time scale (medium confidence). {1.2.4, Figure 1.5}                                                                                                    A2.2. Reaching and sustaining net-zero global anthropogenic CO2 emissions and declining net nonCO2 radiative forcing would halt anthropogenic global warming on multi-decadal timescales (high confidence). The maximum temperature reached is then determined by cumulative net global anthropogenic CO2 emissions up to the time of net zero CO2 emissions (high confidence) and the level of non-CO2 radiative forcing in the decades prior to the time that maximum temperatures are reached (medium confidence). On longer timescales, sustained net negative global anthropogenic
CO2 emissions and/or further reductions in non-CO2 radiative forcing may still be required to prevent further warming due to Earth system feedbacks and reverse ocean acidification (medium confidence) and will be required to minimise sea level rise (high confidence). {Cross-Chapter Box 2 in Chapter 1, 1.2.3, 1.2.4, Figure 1.4, 2.2.1, 2.2.2,,,}

It is obviously a very technical document so it may be best to direct the reader to other summaries of its text.  The first is very alarmist:

The Fossil Free News has the following statement:

“A month on from the mass #RiseforClimate mobilizations around the world, we’re seeing public discourse turn back to climate change this week. A new United Nations report, detailing the dangers of a world above 1.5˚C of warming, has just been published – and it’s a tough wake up call. 

All over, people are speaking out about what the new report on 1.5 means – that science itself necessitates an end to fossil fuels as fast as we possibly can. 

This has the potential to be a turning point. People everywhere are waking up to the fact that a livable world is a Fossil Free world. Wherever you are, you can help deliver this urgent message to local leaders this weekend and encourage them to go Fossil Free.”

They also post this piece of video:


Friends of the Earth sent out the following statement:

“Today, the world’s leading panel of climate change experts released its latest report [1]. And it doesn’t make for cheerful reading.

The report lays bare how crucial it is that we keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. If we don’t stop burning coal, oil and gas, the damage to wildlife, ecosystems, and vulnerable communities around the globe will be almost unimaginable.  

But the UK government seems determined to do the opposite. As you know, it actually wants to make it easier for fracking companies to drill in search of gas. And thanks to its narrow-minded pursuit of fracking, later this week we could see the first fracking in this country since 2011 – when Cuadrilla’s operations near Blackpool were halted due to earth tremors.”  

The Guardian says the following:

The headline states the following:

World leaders ‘have moral obligation to act’ after UN climate report

Even half degree of extra warming will affect hundreds of millions of people, decimate corals and intensify heat extremes, report shows

The article goes on to state:

“But the muted response by Britain, Australia and other governments highlights the immense political challenges facing adoption of pathways to the relatively safe limit of 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures outlined on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

With the report set to be presented at a major climate summit in Poland in December, known as COP24, there is little time for squabbles. The report noted that emissions need to be cut by 45% by 2030 in order to keep warming within 1.5C. That means decisions have to be taken in the next two years to decommission coal power plants and replace them with renewables, because major investments usually have a lifecycle of at least a decade.”


Martin Wolf writing for the Financial Times on 23rd October 2018, in an article entitled “Inaction over climate change is shameful: we need to shift the world onto a different investment and growth path immediately”.  He starts his article with the words:

It is five minutes to midnight on climate change. We will have to alter our trajectory very quickly if we wish to have a good chance of limiting the global average temperature rise to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. That was a goal of the Paris agreement of 2015. Achieving it means drastic reductions in emissions from now. This is very unlikely to happen. That is no longer because it is technically impossible. It is because it is politically painful. We are instead set on running an irreversible bet on our ability to manage the consequences of a far bigger rise even than 2C. Our progeny will see this as a crime.”

He goes onto to provide graphical data demonstrating the reality of climate change, as well as suggestions for implementing a radical reduction in climate emissions. See:

On the same page is an advertisement offering information about “Climate Change Investment”.

Following on from Martin Wolf’s excellent Financial Times article, a reader sent in the following letter:

Climate change must be part of the FT’s reporting From Claire James, London, UK.  “Martin Wolf’s excellent article “The shameful inaction over climate change” (October 24) about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report sets out with brutal clarity what is at stake if we delay action on climate change. Will the Financial Times now move to acknowledge this in its wider news and business coverage, in particular for high-carbon sectors such as fossil fuel extraction or aviation? The climate impact of particular projects should be included as standard information for your readers. Unfortunately, investment in these industries’ continued expansion, rather than in sustainable alternatives, is precisely why a safe climate for future generations is now almost unachievable. Claire James London W5, UK.”


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The Effects of Rising Sea Levels on Island Nations

Many island nations are already experiencing rising sea levels due to global warming and the increased severity of cyclones due to climate change, for example:  Maldives; Marshall Islands; Fiji; Solomon Islands, Philippines; Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Kiribati.  The following table gives some data on this, provided by the University of Hawaii:


Also available is a graph of sea level rise in the Indian Ocean over the last century, available at:


On the United Nations Climate Change website, further studies are detailed using ICT to map possible changes, with particular reference to Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.  See:

UNFCCC are using innovative ICT solutions to help Pacific Island countries prepare for and adapt to sea level rise brought about by climate change. The project provides the fundamental data, skills and tools at-risk communities need to make planning decisions. It trains government decision makers to use online tools and flood maps to understand and mitigate the risks of sea level rise.  A short piece of video posted on the above site sets out the dire situation these island nations face and the urgent need for action.

The ICT Study produced the following Key Facts:

  •  More than 10,000 buildings were identified at high risk of inundation within 80 years including schools, hospitals and critical infrastructure
  • 195 people from the governments of Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea were trained on how to manage and use LiDAR data
  • The Vanuatu Globe was a significant Open Data portal produced for the Vanuatu Government and set a new precedent for publically sharing sea level rise information
  • Through the Vanuatu Globe, the project was able to help the 2015 Cyclone Pam recovery by providing critical map information which was accessed by more than 1,000 people a day within days of the cyclone

I will post on this blog details of how individual island groups have been affected by sea level rise, when it becomes available, though the global media tends to ignore the problem. It will be updated from time to time. Sections for individual island groups below as follows:

  1.  Fiji
  2. Maldives
  3. Solomon Islands
  4. Marshall Islands
  5. Kiribati
  6. Tuvalu
  7. Seychelles
  8. Philippines
  9. UK Overseas territories
  10. Cape Verde
  11. Sri Lanka
  12. Cook Islands
  13. Mauritius
  14. Brunei
  15. Hawaii
  16. Torres Strait Islands
  17. Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Other island groups will be added when information becomes available about them.  At present, not all sections are of equal length.

  1. 1.  FIJI

In Fiji, several island villages have been swamped by the sea and need to relocate to higher ground. This has come at considerable cost to their government.  The following posts give further details:

From the website of OCHA, the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (

 Fiji: Building resilience in the face of climate change

2014, Vanua Levu, Fiji: The village of Vunidogoloa on Vanua Levu was the first community in Fiji to relocate because of coastal erosion and flooding attributed in part to climate change. Credit: Nansen Initiative

2014, Vanua Levu, Fiji: The village of Vunidogoloa on Vanua Levu was the first community in Fiji to relocate because of coastal erosion and flooding attributed in part to climate change. Credit: Nansen Initiative

Increasingly severe weather patterns and rising sea levels have seen Fiji become the first country in the Pacific to relocate communities because of climate change.

Fiji_joana_narikoso (1)

Joana Tuisowaqa has lived in Narikoso village on Ono Island for 25 years. She says that, in the past five years, there has been a significant increase in the number of floods affecting her community.

“We asked for help from the government because water was coming right into the village and most houses were underwater during really high tides and storms,” she says. “People are scared and worried, but they can’t do much about it – they just live with it and know that moving is the only option.”

To the north of the small village of 70 people, ledges have been carved out of the hillside by army engineers. The new elevated site, a few hundred metres inland, is where the community will eventually relocate.

The Narikoso village relocation is supported by the Government of Fiji and a climate change programme run jointly by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the German group GIZ. A series of community consultations have been held to ensure all villagers understand the process.

For the villagers of Vunidogoloa on Vanua Levu, nearly 280 km north of Narikoso, relocation has loomed as a reality for more than 30 years. In February 2014 the village was the first in Fiji to relocate, shifting two kilometres inland after years of coastal erosion and flooding had made their homes inhospitable.

The head of the village, Sailosi Ramatu, says the move was the culmination of a process spanning several decades.

“It was a very emotional period for us as there was a lot of waiting, insecurity, and questioning.”

The Government confirmed the village would be relocated in 2006, but the relocation site was only selected in 2012, following years of consultation and discussion.

“It was not easy for the village community to relocate,” Sailosi explains. “This was especially true for older people that had lived in the village all their life, because the land is part of their culture and identity.”

fiji maps

Land linked to cultural heritage and identity

In Fiji there is a strong cultural connection to land that is closely tied to heritage and identity. The Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) has been working with villagers to help them deal with the loss of their homelands.

“Because faith is such a large part of people’s lives in the Pacific, the church is well placed to assist communities in dealing with climate change challenges,” said Julia Edwards from PCC. “We offer accompaniment to affected communities and support to church leaders in dealing with the impacts.”

With a membership of 6.5 million people across the region, the PCC is also working with governments, civil society and regional organizations to develop a regional framework to protect Pacific Islanders displaced by climate change.

Small islands most vulnerable to climate change

According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sea levels are expected to rise between 28 to 61 cm by 2100, with tropical storms and cyclones to become more frequent and intense.

With no criteria for small island developing states on when to abandon homes and relocate, Fiji is leading the way in the development of relocation guidelines. Over the coming decade, the Government intends to move more affected villages and has even offered to resettle other low-lying Pacific nations.

“Relocations are a last resort and just one part of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategies to reduce the vulnerability and enhance the resilience of communities,” said Manasa Tagicakabau, Director of Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office. “The lessons learnt from the first successful relocations of Vunidogoloa and Narikoso villages can be applied to other relocation projects in Fiji and the region.”

Human displacement will rise globally

In a 2014 report, IPCC said that human displacement is expected to rise globally in coming decades as a consequence of climate change. While most displacement will likely occur inside countries, some people will seek protection and refuge abroad.

At present there are no provisions under international humanitarian law for people displaced by natural disasters or the effects of climate change to legally enter another country for protection and assistance. The Swiss and Norwegian-led Nansen Initiative is looking to address this gap.

The Nansen Initiative has been holding regional consultations with island states and regional civil-society organizations in the Pacific, as well as in South-East Asia, the Horn of Africa and Central America. Hannah Entwisle Chapuisat of the Nansen Initiative says the results of the consultations will be consolidated and discussed at a global inter-governmental meeting in 2015.

“We want to develop and build consensus on a protection agenda for people displaced by disasters and the effects of climate change,” she says. “It will be an action plan of what to do next and how to address current gaps. This includes looking at gaps in international law, addressing relocation, migration as adaptation and cross-border displacement, and sharing best practices from countries already dealing with these issues.”

“To fail to plan is to plan to fail”

Pacific consultations have stressed the importance of mitigating global greenhouse gas emissions and developing adaptation measures to prevent displacement and relocation. Recommendations from a regional inter-governmental consultation in the Cook Islands in 2013 and a civil society consultation in Fiji in 2014 included integrating human mobility issues within relevant national and regional laws and policies. They also recommended developing appropriate legal frameworks to address the protection needs of displaced populations.

For Hannah, the approach is simple: “We should do our utmost to build resilience and allow people to stay in their homes, but the risk of displacement and relocation is a Pacific reality. We must also have capacity to plan for and respond when movement is unavoidable.”

She is reminded of the words of the Hon. Henry Puna, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, who concluded the consultation in Rarotonga with: “To fail to plan is to plan to fail”.


Planning for Community Relocations Due to Climate Change in Fiji Karen E. McNamara1 • Helene Jacot Des Combes. Int J Disaster Risk Sci (2015) 6:315–319.

Abstract As a consequence of the impacts of climate change, some households and entire communities across the Pacific are making the complex and challenging decision to leave their homelands and relocate to new environments that can sustain their livelihoods. This short article charts how the residents of Vunidogoloa village in Fiji relocated in early 2014 to reduce their vulnerability to encroaching sea level and inundation events that regularly devastated the community. As a consequence of the Vunidogoloa relocation, this article also explores how the Fiji Government is planning for similar resettlement transitions, including vulnerability and adaptation assessments to develop a list of potential community relocations and the development of national relocation guidelines. This study draws from key informant interviews (n = 8) with government officials, as well as representatives from intergovernmental and local nongovernmental organizations, who are involved in the relocation issue. Given the speed at which these national, top-down initiatives are being forged and especially in light of the absence of any mention of relocation in Fiji’s 2012 climate change policy, careful and inclusive engagement across all scales and stakeholders, including communities ‘‘earmarked’’ for relocation, is paramount.


From an article in the New Scientist, 25th March 2017 by Nenad Jaric Dauenhauer:

This nation has been facing being swamped by the sea for many years and initially looked to find land on which to re-locate.  Now, with a new government, under President Abdulla Yameen, they are no longer seeking new land to buy but have devised a new strategy, using engineering.  They are renting out islands and using the money to build new ones, through the process of land reclamation.  One of these artificial islands is called Hulhumale, near the capital Male.  Sand is being pumped from surrounding atolls and deposited on shallow reefs.  It is being fortified with walls up to 3 metres above sea level – the highest natural island is just 2.5 metres above the sea.

Some think that this could do damage to the surrounding reefs and are arguing for a more sustainable approach.


Caption in New Scientist “It’s build or sink for the Maldives”


According to the Guardian (10th May 2016), five of the uninhabited islands in the Solomon archipelago have been lost to rising seas, with another six having large swathes of land and villages washed into the sea.  Over the last 20 years, sea levels in the region have risen by 10 mm.  In these, six entire villages have been destroyed and people forced to re-locate, as in Fiji.  One was Nuatambu, home to 25 families, with 11 houses lost since 2011. Other people were forced to move from the island of Nararo.

Full story on:

March 2019:  This is not to do with sea-level rise but another disaster has recently hit the Solomon Islands. An oil tanker, carrying 80 tonnes of oil, ran aground on Kongobainiu reef, spilling a large proportion of its contents into the water and onto the nearby islands.


Now dead fish float in the bay. The tide is black. A thick oily blanket of tar covers the surface of the water and coats beaches, rockpools, logs and leaves.

The coastal villages of Matanga, Vangu, Lavangu and Kangava have been the hardest hit by the oil spill.  Children had been told not to swim in the sea and fishing has been banned for the foreseeable future. With no way to find their own food, the villagers are now depending on deliveries from the capital Honiara, 150 miles away.

Steward Seuika, whose family live close to Kangava Bay, said residents had been forced to drink rainwater after fresh water collected from springs near the shore became contaminated with oil.

“The oil slick affects our corals and marine life. It also contaminates our water which comes out from the stones on the land near the beach. So now we run out of clean water to drink.”

As well as the food shortages, some locals have reported being burned after coming into contact with the oil while trying to clean it up. There were also reports that others were struggling to sleep because of the smell.

“Some people reported experiencing skin burns after the oil stuck on their body,” McQueen Bahenua, the provincial disaster officer, said.

For the full story, see:

May 2019: Another report in the Australian press describes more islands in this group going under water, with ancient trees going under water:


300-year old trees in the Solomon islands being swamped by the sea



These Pacific Islands are very low lying and five of them have already disappeared due to rising seas and erosion.  The remaining islands are regularly swamped by the sea.  The island group includes Bikini Atoll, where the US dropped bombs in their trials of the hydrogen bomb.  Many of the residents of the Marshall Islands have already been displaced, some settling in Arkansas in the US.  This is one of the clearest injustices of climate change.

A video explains the situation from the islanders point of view:

Another video, posted on Huffington post, by a Marshalls islander, about the Paris agreement and Trump’s pull-out, can be seen here:

Huffington post also gives the following quote:

“We are all global warming victims. If we islanders survive, I promise you, the whole world will survive.” Bryant Zebedee, Marshall Islands

Also, on Huffington post is part three of their documentary “End of the Earth”.

Further photographs showing seas swamping the islands can be found on a Google search: Marshall Islands and climate change.

See also, another blog on this website about radioactive leaks from concrete storage dome, which is cracking due to sea level rise.

Relocation in other parts of the world

Recent reports suggest that coastal communities on mainland Alaska are also having to relocate due to rising seas.


The following story comes from Vice News:

The tiny nation of Kiribati will soon be underwater — here’s the plan to save its people

By Arielle Duhaime-Ross

September 22, 2016 | 6:40 pm

Kiribati, a tiny nation on a chain of 33 atolls and reef islands in the South Pacific, could be the first entire country eliminated by climate change. As seas rise, the islands are increasingly inundated by high tides, and islanders believe the sea will swallow their lands in less than a generation.


That has thrust former three-term president Anote Tong into the spotlight. Facing the reality of his country’s rapid disappearance, Tong spent his presidency making practical preparations for the relocation Kiribati’s 100,000 citizens out of their homeland to ensure that when it truly becomes unlivable they won’t become refugees.

Planning for what he calls “migration with dignity”, Tong purchased 6,000 acres of land in Fiji for the I-Kiribati to move to and relocated 75 citizens a year to New Zealand. But dignity, he maintained, also means having a homeland for the diaspora to remember, so he suggested raising one of the islands to protect it for posterity.

Together with the leaders of other Small Island Developing States, Kiribati advocated for a fossil free world by 2050 and, famously, ensured a Paris Agreement that aims for no more than 1.5 degrees of warming, half a degree less than the original draft. No longer president, Tong continues to be a voice for environmental protection and marginalized communities that are most vulnerable to climate change, as Arielle Duhaime-Ross discovered in a conversation in New York.

Arielle Duhaime-Ross: Tell us a little about Kiribati, what does climate change mean for the country?

Anote Tong: Barely two meters above sea level on average is the elevation above water. Very narrow strips of land, no mountains at all. So we definitely are most vulnerable and the front line of what is happening with climate change.

ADR: What are the human consequences of climate change on the country of Kiribati?

AT: We have communities who have to leave their villages because the village is no longer there. You have this church sitting out in the middle of the sea because the tide is in but this is where the village used to be. So the church is there because I asked the villagers to put a sea wall around it so that it can stay there as clear evidence of what is happening.

I was in one of the communities when the sea wall broke into a freshwater pond. I was not there after that but I’ve been advised that the food crops have died, the water lens has been destroyed. I can see that community relocating in the very near future.

ADR: The country of Kiribati on average is about 6 and half feet above the sea level right now is that correct?

AT: It would be about that but most of the communities, the people, when the tide is in, they are just living where the water is lapping, so whenever there is a king tide or a bit of the wind, then you get this waves coming over destroying properties and homes. We’ve had flooding where we’ve not had flooding in the past. These are the things we are experiencing today.

ADR: When people think about flooding, we think about houses being destroyed and people having to relocate, but are there other consequences to flooding?

AT: So when waves top over on the land you get many things happening. One being the erosion so you get destruction of property. Second, you get the water destroying the water lens because we get our water from underground water. This is what we live on, we survive on, we don’t have rivers. So this is where we draw our potable water. So once that gets destroyed, it has implications on the health of our people because they’d be drinking bad water.

ADR: Can anything be done to save Kiribati?

AT: I think there is. I think it’s very doable, but the question is where we get the resources to do it. Give me a few billion dollars and there’s no question in my mind that there’s quite a lot that we could do. I’ve been quoted as talking about floating islands. We’d have to depend on the international community and this is what I’ve been advocating. I just come back from Europe trying to advocating possible solutions to the challenge that we face because if nothing is done, then according to the projections of the government panel on climate change, we will be gone.


ADR: How long does Kiribati have?

AT: We think in 30 to 50 years something very drastic, if not before then.

ADR: Can you talk about the concept of migration with dignity?

AT: We have to acknowledge the brutal reality that some of our people have to relocate. So knowing that, we don’t want to be just sitting there waiting for it to happen and do nothing about it. This is why I’ve been advocating this “migration with dignity” because I’ve always resented the way are being referred to as potential “climate refugees.” We don’t want to be refugees. It’s a bad term.

ADR: Why is that a bad term?

AT: It’s undignifying, very undignifying. We would have lost our homes, we don’t want to lose our dignity, we don’t want to lose our pride. If we train our people and they become skilled, then they would migrate with dignity and on merit, they would not be people running away from something. They would be migrating, relocating as people with skills as members of communities they go into, even leaders, I hope. We don’t want to be the category of people that want to go to other countries and are being resisted, being pushed away. This is happening, we can see this, we should be learning, taking lessons from what’s happening in Europe. In that part of the world and the Pacific we get people wanting to migrate to Australia they have been put into camps.

ADR: Kiribati has bought some land in Fiji, are you hoping most of your citizens will end up there?

AT: Fiji has been the only country that’s come forward, stepped forward when nobody else would. And they’ve said that if and when Kiribati and Tuvalu should need somewhere to go in the event of sea level rise, Fiji is willing to accommodate. Now that has been the kind of compassionate response that I expected of people because I believe people to be compassionate. So that is very human, very merciful, I must say.

A further report about the predicament that Kiribati is facing can be found at the following link published in November 2017:

New Zealand has become the first developed nation to offer residency to climate refugees, in an initial trial experiment of 100 Pacific islanders per year.  The PRI article gives a Kiribati response to this offer.

For countries across the Pacific, like the low-lying nation of Kiribati, New Zealand’s announcement comes as a welcome gesture of regional solidarity. Coastal erosion and freshwater contamination are already altering the lives of Kiribati’s 110,000 citizens. The altitude of the most of the country’s islands, after all, is on average just six feet above sea level.

In South Tarawa, the capital island of Kiribati, you’ll hear a strong reaction to the concept of climate migration. Many outright reject the label “climate refugee” in Kiribati. Some argue that it casts I-Kiribati citizens as victims of a foregone climate conclusion. Others believe the label doesn’t assign responsibility to high-emitting countries — and eclipses their fight to protect their homes.

“It’s the last option. And if it’s the last option, let’s do everything we can now to remain in Kiribati.”

Kiribati’s government is currently implementing various adaptation measures, including sea walls, artificial land reclamation and rainwater tanks. These efforts, along with staunch civil society campaigns, aim to avoid a scenario in which I-Kiribati citizens must be forced to use New Zealand’s proposed visa option.


The nine islands of Tuvalu are located in the middle of the Pacific. Funafuti, the main island and capital, is at 1000 km North of Fiji. Tuvalu became, notably thanks to the climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the international symbol of the consequences of climate change. Sea-level rise, one of the most known consequences, is a major threat for Tuvalu, considering that this country’s highest point is 4.5 meters above sea-level (whereas most of the land is way below that point). The consequences of climate change will have and already have considerable impacts on these islands.

In the National Adaptation Programme of Actions (NAPA), the government of Tuvalu has identified seven main and immediate threats for the livelihoods of Tuvaluans. These seven adverse effects are presented here:

Coastal: Following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea-level has already risen by 20 centimetres between 1870 and nowadays. Considering the low-lying position of Tuvalu, this trend is going to dangerously affect the islands. The objective of the government is to increase the resilience of coastal areas and settlement to climate change.

Agricultural: Due to sea-level rise, the ground of Tuvalu is prone to increasing salinization, threatening the habitats of some plants, such as pulaka and coconut trees. Considering that Pulaka traditionally is the staple food in Tuvalu, the adaptation strategy is to introduce salt-tolerant pulaka.

Water: The islands of Tuvalu have progressively lost their fresh groundwater resources, not only due to sea-level rise, but also because of human pollution. In consequence, Tuvaluans only rely on rainwater storage to meet their needs. However, the seasons on Tuvalu are getting irregular and difficult to forecast, leading to droughts and water shortage. In order to ameliorate this situation, the adaptation plan recommends improved and increased water collection and water conservation techniques.


Health: Vectors breeding grounds will have an increasing availability in the next years and decades because of higher tides, inundations and tropical cyclones. The increased availability will exacerbate the exposure of the Tuvaluans to water borne diseases and will increase the epidemic potential of the islands.

Fisheries: Climate change, heating the ocean water, impacts the corals and consequently the marine fauna. The biodiversity of the ocean, and also, in the case of Tuvalu, of the atolls will decrease. In order to prevent this irreparable lost of species due to heat, fragile ecosystems have to be protected.

Fisheries: The biodiversity of the atoll and particularly in the shallower water in the lagoon, will not be the only affected by the impacts of the rising surface water temperature. The rising temperatures will also considerably reduce the shellfish and available fish resources. Considering that the Tuvaluans, on average, eat 500 grams of fish per capita every day, a reduction of the resource will have a disastrous impact of the livelihoods and, thus, also on development.

Disaster: Tuvalu has been increasingly exposed to tropical storms and cyclones since 1990.  Between 1970 and 1990, only three tropical storms, hurricanes or cyclones struck Tuvalu. However, between 1990 and 2005, the islands experienced thirteen similar meteorological events. In order to ease the impacts of the population, the country will have to implement of disaster alert and response potential system.

The population density of Tuvalu is high, ranking 13th in the world compared with other nations. It is a small piece of land, only 26km square, with a population of 11 000 people – a population density of about 423 persons per square kilometre. However, the situation on Tuvalu is not even. On the capital island, Funafuti, more than 5,000 people live on only 2.4 square km2(as the islanders have gathered on just one of the islets, Fogafale, the real area is even smaller, about 1.4 km2). In other terms, it means that close to 2,000 persons live on each square kilometre of the atoll; and “only” 260 for the outer islands.

The plight of Tuvalu is featured in a Guardian article, which provides a series of photographs to illustrate the effects of rising sea levels.




The Seychelles are already suffering from coastal erosion and experts are saying that the entire archipelago could disappear under the sea by 2050.  Like many island groups, they are an important tourist destination.

The following video link gives a picture of how climate change is affecting the Seychelles:


A tourist beach in the Seychelles

However, recent reports suggest that this island nation is now a global leader in cutting greenhouse gases:

An African island nation known for beautiful beaches is now a global leader in cutting greenhouse gases

It is sad therefore to hear a new report from Rainforest Rescue which gives a less satisfying story of government plans for part of this island.  It is copied here:

The government of the Seychelles clearly understands the value of unspoiled nature: it recently created two vast marine protected areas, an expanse of ocean the size of Great Britain.

One protected area centers around Aldabra, an uninhabited coral atoll that is home to more than 100,000 giant tortoises and a veritable riot of marine biodiversity.

But now, the Seychelles government wants to let India build a military base for its navy on a neighboring island — within the actual protected area. Noise, pollution and oil spills would be virtually inevitable. Paradise may soon be lost.

Parliament will be voting soon on whether to give India the green light. Please tell the Seychelles not to go ahead with this crime against nature!”

Further details can be obtained from Rainforest Rescue at:


The following piece is copied from:

which concludes that Metro Manila may soon be permanently under water.

“As rains from the latest typhoon “Gener” (international name: Saola) hit Manila, waves rising out of Manila Bay left much of iconic Roxas Boulevard flooded, including the United States Embassy which was forced to close Wednesday, the 1st of August 2012. By then the death toll had already reportedly risen to 14 and more than 150,000 forced from their homes as vast shantytowns across the city were inundated.

Just less than two weeks ago, the 21st July, Manila had already been “turned into a water-world” after heavy rains pounded the metropolis for hours.

Flooding in Manila seems to be occurring more frequently nowadays — and becoming more consistently severe. The degree to which the last couple of days’ rains which led to school interruptions and impacted workers’ productivity will damage the already fragile social and economic fabric of the Philippines will be the subject of much conjecture. But the real question is, will this sort of thing be increasingly the norm?

Manila was, in fact, cited in a 2009 report featured in as being one of the big Asian “mega-cities” that will likely be the worst-affected by climate change.

Many of the island groups of the world form part of the United Kingdom’s overseas territories.  They can be found in the Caribbean, South Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.  A 67-page report (undated), from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, looked at the possible effects of climate change on all these territories. It did not just focus on sea level rise but of all the climate change effects but unfortunately gave no raw data.  The report can be found at:
The main conclusions are as follows:
Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands)
  • An increase in sea temperature could
    lead to loss of fish stocks, seabirds and marine animals.
  • Sea level rise could threaten beaches where fur seals and elephant seals breed and the tussac grass communities where the endemic South Georgia pipit lives and breeds.
  • Glacial retreat would increase the habitat of invasive species, including rats, mice and reindeer, which would endanger the pipit and lead to loss of habitat for certain burrowing petrel species.


  • Bermuda’s mangrove forests are threatened by salt water inundation due to
    rising sea levels.
  • Turtle nesting sites are subject to erosion from tropical storms and hurricanes that
    affect the island.
  • Bermuda’s coral system is distinctive for being the most northerly of its kind in the
    world and is among the more geographically isolated reefs. The fate of this reef system is linked to those of the Caribbean, which seed them.

The Caribbean – Anguilla

  • Depletion of fish stocks.
  • Beach erosion, compounded by development in the coastal zone.
  • A longer dry season and decreased availability of water could affect
  • Sea level rise will increase the risk of salt-water contamination of
    rivers and salt-water intrusion of ground water.
  • Increased hurricane and storm intensity could disrupt sanitation and
    sewerage disposal systems as well as cause damage to coastal
    communities and infrastructure.

The Caribbean – British Virgin Islands

  • Coral reefs are vulnerable to bleaching episodes from warmer seas and stress from
  • Low-lying Anegada is vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise and to storm surges and wave action during hurricanes.

The Caribbean – Cayman Islands

  • Coral bleaching.
  • Beach erosion and destruction of turtle nesting sites.
  • As low-lying islands, the Cayman islands are vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise and to storm surges and wave action during hurricanes.

The Caribbean – Montserrat

  • Changes in coastal vegetation.
  • Coral bleaching

The Caribbean – Turks and Caicos Islands

  • Sea level rise will increase the risk of coastal erosion and salt-water intrusion of ground water
  • This will jeopardise agricultural production in and around coastal communities.

South Atlantic – Ascension Island

  • Increase in sea temperature.
  • Sea level rise will adversely affect nesting beaches and could cause a drop in sea turtle nesting success to nest inundation.
  • Changes in regional seasonal rainfall patterns could advance the spread of invasive plant species and increase erosion.

South Atlantic – St. Helena

  • Fish stocks and fishing industry at high risk.
  • Increased risk of floods, droughts, and soil erosion.
  • Research points to a strong warming trend (2°C over 60 years) and a slight decrease in rainfall that could lead to a reduction in water supplies.
  • Altitudinal shifts in vegetation zones. Current ecological imbalances could become even more marked.

South Atlantic – Falkland Islands

  • Cooler, less saline water may affect distribution and abundance of the main inshore fauna and flora.
  • There is need for more research and data gathering. To date, little is known about the effects of climate change on plant communities or about what it means for whale and dolphin communities.

South Atlantic – Tristan da Cunha and Gough Islands

  • Increased threat from invasive species (e.g. rats and mice) due to warmer temperatures that allow them to thrive and displace more vulnerable native species.
  • Tristan Albatross (Diomedea dabbenena), already considered ‘critically endangered’ by mouse predation, would be further threatened.
  • Changes in oceanic circulation patterns due to warming sea temperatures could affect some fish species and marine predators (seabirds and seals)
  • An increase in storm severity puts the sole harbour on Tristan da Cunha, the only means of access, at risk.

South Pacific – Pitcairn Islands

  • Changes in rainfall and salt-water intrusion will affect agricultural production.
  • The tuna fisheries in the western and central Pacific could collapse.
  • Diarrhoeal and vector borne diseases are expected to increase.
  • Climate change could also increase the incidence of ciguatera poisoning.
  • Variations in rainfall will affect water supplies in some Pacific islands.
  • Coral reefs are also likely to be affected by bleaching events.


Cape Verde, the small island archipelago nation off Africa’s northwest coast, has set itself a very bold renewable energy target. As part of its “sustainable energy for all” agenda, it has pledged to obtain 100% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025.
Cape Verde is made up of 10 islands, nine of which are inhabited, that lie about 600km west of Senegal. Almost all of the islands’ 550,000 residents have access to electricity, but about one-third still rely on firewood and charcoal for cooking.
Although most of its electricity is produced by generators, which run on imported petroleum products, Cape Verde has started to diversify its energy portfolio and a quarter is provided from renewable sources.
Further details can be found from the following link from Quartz media:
There are a number of reports on the dangers of sea level rise in Sri Lanka, which could displace up to a million people.
According to a 2015 report in the Daily Mirror, Sir Lanka is more at risk from climate change than it is from war:
See also:

Sri Lanka shrinks by 600 hectares a year due to rising sea levels. In the future there are likely to be 21 million climate refugees whose homes have been lost to climate change, according to a lecture shown on youtube:
Apparently, the clearing of mangrove swamps to encourage tourism has made the situation worse.
The Cook Islands comprise a group of 15 islands located in the South Pacific Ocean, with a land mass of 237 square kilometres.  They fall into two main geographical groups:
  • the southern group, which are high volcanic islands;
  • the northern group, which are mainly coral atolls made up of circular sand cays around a lagoon.

The northern islands are increasingly vulnerable to rising sea-levels. In 1997 almost half the population of the island of Manihiki was relocated to Raratonga and then to New Zealand. Standing barely four metres above sea-level, the island has become increasingly vulnerable to storm surges and coastal flooding.

With a rise of 4mm per year since 1993, the sea level around the Cook Islands is increasing more quickly than the global average of 2.8-3.6mm per year.

Local farmers have noticed changes in weather patterns over the last few years, with longer and milder winters and the rainy seasons are unpredictable.

Local fishermen such as Ngametua Tangatakino are also feeling the effects of climate change.

“I’ve really noticed the changes in the ocean currents around the island. The current patterns are unusual, they switch direction abruptly and sometimes go in circles, its hard to know where to put my line down”.

He works as a marine officer with the government and, in 2010 he spent six months recording tidal patterns around Mangaia. He found that the average low tide mark had become significantly higher. Now, it is rare that the reef surrounding the island is exposed at low tide, denying local woman the opportunity to forage for crabs and snails – a traditional mainstay of the local diet. Other fishermen agree that things are changing. Fish are not coming in season, tides are changing and ocean fauna is disappearing. It has been suggested that the absence of certain fish species is due to the increasing acidification in the waters surrounding the Cook Islands, which has led to the disappearance of seaweed in the lagoon, disrupting the food chain. A scientific survey conducted in 2010 revealed that seaweed stocks had almost disappeared from the deep ocean surrounding Mangaia.

In recent years there has also been an emerging pattern of more intense storms and higher category cyclones. Early in 2005 – the Cooks experienced five cyclones in one week and, in 2010, the island of Aitutaki experienced one of the worst cyclones in memory when 80 per cent of the houses on the island lost their roofs.

A detailed study of climate change in the Cook Islands was conducted by the Australian Government in 2011 and a comprehensive report, with data and graphs can be found at:

Click to access 9_PCCSP_Cook_Islands_8pp.pdf

The main conclusions were:

  1.  Temperatures have warmed and will continue to warm with more very hot days in the future;
  2.  Annual rainfall since 1950 has increased at Penrhyn in the Northern Cook Islands but there are no clear trends in rainfall at Rarotonga in the Southern Cook Islands.
    Rainfall patterns are projected to change over this century with more extreme rainfall days and less frequent droughts;
  3. By the end of this century projections suggest decreasing numbers of tropical cyclones but a possible shift towards more intense categories;
  4. Sea level near the Cook Islands has risen and will continue to rise throughout this century;
  5. Ocean acidification has been increasing in the Cook Islands’ waters. It will continue to increase and threaten coral reef ecosystems.

Further details of this initiative, which includes 15 Pacific Island Countries can be found at:


 This group of islands is also at risk of sea level rise.  An animated picture of this, according to the degree of global warming, can be seen at:

The nation of Brunei is located on the north west coast of the large Indonesian island of Borneo.  Here, they are also worried about sea level rise, as shown by the following data:
A news report from December 2017, on the latest situation for this group of islands can be found at:
These low-lying islands are off the northern coast of Australia. Rising oceans are beginning to flood their islands.  The islanders are very concerned about their future and have made a video to set out their needs:


These low-lying islands are located in the Indian Ocean, 2,900 kilometres north-west of Perth, Australia. Various studies carried out there have concluded that they are at risk of sea level rise, as well as increased storm intensity and frequency.  Some native species may be at risk of extinction.

The sea level surrounding North Keeling Island is expected to rise due to increases in global average sea level. Any change in mean sea level, combined with the effects of storm surge associated with large storms or cyclones, is likely to have dramatic consequences and will have a significant impact on a range of species living on the island. Any increase in sea level will result in a substantial loss of nesting beaches used by green turtles. Rises in sea levels also impact low lying areas through enhanced coastal erosion and increased vulnerability to storm surges (Maunsell 2009).

As well as sea level rise, these remote islands are also suffering as a result of plastic accumulation on the beaches.

cocos islands plastic

Plastic-covered beach in Cocos (Keeling) Island

These tiny Cocos (Keeling) Islands have a population of 600 and marine scientists found 977,000 shoes and 373,000 toothbrushes as well as 414m pieces of plastic, weighing 238 tonnes.

The study, published in the journal Nature, concluded the volume of debris points to the exponential increase of global plastic polluting the world’s oceans and “highlights a worrying trend in the production and discharge of single-use products”.