human activity and the destruction of the planet

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Pacific islands and climate change II

A while ago, I wrote a post on this website on “The effects of rising sea levels on island nations” and have regularly added more information to it, as I found information on new island groups.

I get a regular number of “hits” to the posting from Pacific Island nations and have been pleased about this as the plight of such nations is often overlooked in our modern western-focused world. Whilst doing a search to add more island nations to the posting, I came across a disturbing article by Laray Polk in the Asia-Pacific Journal:

Kili Island has suffered heavy flooding yearly since 2011.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Niedenthal)

Laray Polk’s article is entitled “American Polynesia, Rising Seas and Relocation” and concentrates on American Polynesia and the Guano islands. Shockingly, these beautiful island groups were heavily exploited by the US and UK for nuclear testing over many decades and further detail of this can be found in a book, co-authored with Noam Chomsky Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe (Seven Stories Press).

However, the Asia-Pacific Journal article provides detail on the effects of rising sea levels and climate change on these islands. Because of its importance, I will quote directly from parts of it. Here is the abstract:

Abstract: In the next 30 to 50 years, rising sea levels caused by global warming will subsume low-lying islands in the Pacific Ocean. Inhabitants will have to relocate, but there are few choices. Among nations (with the exception of Fiji and New Zealand) there is little preparation for the inevitable migration of Pacific Islanders. Which nations should commit to the processes of equitable relocation? The following article will address this question through historical context and colonial occupation; current legal debates surrounding climate change and maritime migration; and the potential rights of “deterritorialized” states, such as retention of exclusive economic zones. Historical context includes an examination of U.S. insular territories in the Pacific and the continued exercise of presidential authority over island possessions.

In 1859, German geographer E. Behm named the U.S. territorial realm in the Pacific, “American Polynesia.” The term appeared in his article on guano island claims, published in Petermanns Mitteilungen.Two maps accompanied the article. (courtesy Gotha Research Library of the University of Erfurt, SPA 4° 000100 005)

Further quote:

Rate of Rising Seas

Pacific island nations and territories are at different stages of addressing the pressing issues of sea-level rise. Discussions involving retention of EEZs—and the rights and financial security maritime zones confer—represent the long game, and enters into a conceptual realm of “What is nationhood, if a nation no longer exists?” Legitimate answers to questions of this magnitude would require changes in international law, a notoriously slow process. As scientific data on climate change feedbacks demonstrate, island nations and territories need answers now.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts the oceans will rise by between 11 and 38 inches by the end of the century, with the potential to submerge low-lying islands. A report from 2016, written by former NASA scientist James Hansen and 16 co-authors, predicts that without serious mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, global sea level is likely to increase “several meters over a timescale of 50 to 150 years.”34 If less than one meter of sea-level rise has the potential to cause an island to disappear by 2100, then Hansen’s numbers portend something more urgent. The question, then, is not when will islands be submerged, but when will sea-level rise make life on low-lying islands impossible.

The answer to that question is close at hand for a number of Pacific islands. Sea-level rise increases both the frequency and magnitude of flooding caused by high tides and storms; saltwater intrusion destroys freshwater sources and the prospect of productive agriculture. Writer and filmmaker Jack Niedenthal, who lives in the Marshall Islands, says that on the island of Kili, “there have been huge changes since about 2011.” That was the first year the island was heavily flooded, and he says it’s happened every year since. Kili, which averages an elevation of 6 feet, is home to many displaced families originally from Bikini Atoll.35

The population there, he says, is trying to raise awareness of climate change with the rest of the world, but it’s challenging. “I find it stunning that there are still so many climate change deniers out there. In the Marshall Islands, we are building numerous seawalls, some very large, others are just building them with old tires and broken down cars.”

A man stands outside his home on Kili Island after a flood event in 2015. (Photo courtesy of Jack Niedenthal)
At an average elevation of 6 feet above sea level, Kili Island is frequently inundated. (Photo courtesy of Jack Niedenthal)
Mattresses stacked on a dining table during a flood event in 2015. (Photo courtesy of Jack Niedenthal)

At a climate change symposium in 2015, Fiji’s Foreign Affairs secretary Esala Nayasi explained the dilemma of Islanders succinctly: “These are people who are on the verge of losing their land that they call home, losing their critical basic necessities and infrastructure, culture, identity and traditional knowledge. This is no longer a news story, it is happening now.”

Nayasi’s sense of urgency is reflected in policy. Among nations, the Republic of Fiji is in the vanguard of relocation efforts. In 2014, the government’s climate change program assisted the village of Vunidogolo in moving to higher ground and provided the means for economic transition. The new village includes “30 houses, fish ponds and copra drier, farms and other projects.” There are 34 more villages slated for relocation within in its territory.39 Because Fiji is a combination of high and low islands, it’s geographically advantaged (though not immune to climate disruption). For other nations such as Tuvalu, comprised of nine coral atolls with a mean elevation of 2 meters, all choices look the same.

Options for relocation are limited in other ways, such as the exclusion of “climate change refugees” from the 1951 Refugee Convention. Under the convention, there are five grounds to qualify for refugee status and fleeing the catastrophic conditions caused by climate change is not one of them. It hasn’t stopped legal challenge in several recent cases in New Zealand. Asylum-seeker Ioane Teitiota from Kiribati lost his case, and was deported in 2015. Sigeo Alesana from Tuvalu had his asylum application declined, but he won his immigration case based partially on the “vulnerability of the couple’s children to illnesses as a result of poor water quality.” According to Radio New Zealand, it’s the first time climate change has been successfully used in an immigration case.40

Perhaps the biggest legal stride in New Zealand is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s recent announcement of plans for a special refugee visa for Pacific Islanders, starting with 100 places annually. “We are anchored in the Pacific,” Ardern told reporters. “Surrounding us are a number of nations, not least ourselves, who will be dramatically impacted by the effects of climate change. I see it as a personal and national responsibility to do our part.”



I have also come across an important piece about the island of Guam, written in August 2016 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “What Climate Change means for Guam”

“In the coming decades, changes in the earth’s atmosphere are
likely to alter several aspects of life in Guam. The air and ocean are
warming, sea level is rising, and the ocean is becoming more acidic.
These changes are likely to damage or destroy much of Guam’s coral
reef ecosystems, increase damages from flooding and typhoons,
reduce the availability of fresh water during the dry season, and make
air temperatures uncomfortably hot more often than they are today.
Our planet is warming and the climate is changing. People have
increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the air by 40 percent
since the late 1700s. Other heat-trapping greenhouse gases are also
increasing. These gases have warmed the surface and lower atmosphere of the earth about one degree (F) during the last 50 years.
Evaporation increases as the atmosphere warms, which increases
humidity, average rainfall, and the frequency of heavy rainstorms in
many places—but contributes to drought in others.
Greenhouse gases are also changing the world’s oceans and ice
cover. Carbon dioxide reacts with water to form carbonic acid, so
the oceans are becoming more acidic. Worldwide, the surface of
the ocean has warmed about one degree during the last 80 years.
Mountain glaciers are retreating and even the great ice sheets on
Greenland and Antarctica are shrinking. Thus the sea is rising at an
increasing rate.
Climate Change and Coral Loss
Warming waters are likely to damage much of the coral around Guam.
Average water temperatures around Guam have risen more than one
degree over the last century, in addition to the year-to-year changes
associated with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (“El Niño”). Rising water
temperatures harm the algae that live inside corals and provide food for
them. The loss of algae weakens corals and can eventually kill them. This
process is commonly known as “coral bleaching” because the loss of the
algae also causes the corals to turn white. Coral bleaching is becoming
more common around Guam, including record-breaking bleaching that
has occurred throughout the western Pacific since 2013. Elevated water
temperatures also cause outbreaks of diseases that can harm or kill corals.
Increasing ocean acidity also damages corals. By changing the balance
of minerals in sea water, higher acidity decreases the ability of corals
to produce calcium carbonate, which is the primary component of their
skeletons. The Pacific Ocean has become about 25 percent more acidic in
the past three centuries, and acidity is likely to increase another
40 to 50 percent by 2100. Over the next 50 to 60 years, warming and
acidification are likely to harm coral reefs around Guam and throughout the world, and widespread loss of coral is likely.
Warming and acidification could result in widespread damage to marine
ecosystems. Guam is home to a diverse array of fish species. Sharks, rays,
grouper, snapper, and hundreds of other fish species rely on healthy coral
reefs for habitat. Reefs also protect nearshore fish nurseries and feeding
grounds. A significant fraction of reef-dwelling fish are likely to lose their
habitats by 2100. Increasing acidity would also reduce populations of
shellfish and other organisms that depend on minerals in the water to build
their skeletons and shells.
Bleached corals in the Tumon Bay Marine Preserve in 2007. Credit: Dave Burdick,
Change in sea surface temperature (°F)

Rising sea surface temperatures since 1901. The waters around Guam have
warmed by more than one degree. Source: EPA, Climate Change Indicators in the United States.
Tropical Storms
As the climate changes, typhoons may cause more damage. Guam lies
in one of the world’s most active regions for tropical storms. In 2002,
Typhoon Pongsona caused $700 million in damages, destroyed 1,300
homes, and left the island without power. In just the last few years,
neighboring islands have suffered from some of the strongest and most
damaging tropical cyclones ever recorded, including Super Typhoons
Haiyan (2013), Maysak (2015), and Soudelor (2015). Although warming
oceans provide typhoons with more potential energy, scientists are not
yet sure whether typhoons have become stronger or more frequent.
Nevertheless, wind speeds and rainfall rates during typhoons are likely to
increase as the climate continues to warm. Higher wind speeds and the
resulting damages can make insurance for wind damage more expensive
or difficult to obtain.

Rising Sea Level and Coastal Flooding
Sea level has risen by about four inches relative to Guam’s shoreline since 1993. If the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, sea level around
Guam is likely to rise one to three feet in the next century. Sea level rise
submerges low-lying areas, erodes beaches, and exacerbates coastal
flooding from typhoons and tsunamis. Coastal homes and infrastructure
will flood more often as sea level rises because storm surges will become
higher as well. Homes, businesses, roads, and the Port of Guam are
vulnerable to the impacts of storms and sea level rise.
The loss of coral reefs compounds this problem because reefs help
protect the shore from waves and storm damage. As reefs die, they lose
their structural integrity and provide less protection to the shore. If larger
waves strike the shore, beaches will erode more rapidly.
Rainfall and Water Supplies
Average rainfall in Guam has increased slightly since 1950, but scientists
are not sure whether total rainfall here will increase in the future. Nevertheless, Guam’s wet season may become wetter, while dry periods may become drier. Warmer temperatures tend to make both rainstorms and droughts more intense. Moreover, Guam’s climate tends to be dry during El Niño years and wet during La Niña years, and scientists generally
expect the differences between El Niño and La Niña years to become
greater in most places.
Inland flooding in Guam may increase as the climate changes. Heavy
rainstorms occasionally overwhelm Guam’s rivers, streams, and urban
storm drains, leading to damaging floods. Flooding is most common in the
southern part of Guam, where the local bedrock is less permeable than
the limestone in the north. This means that rainfall in the south runs off
into rivers and streams instead of filtering into the ground. Flooding during
the wet season could become worse as rainstorms become more intense.
Conversely, water may be less available in the dry season. Less rainfall
occurs during El Niño years, such as during the drought that affected the
island in 2015–2016. Thus, if the El Niño cycle becomes more intense,
less rain might fall during the dry season. Moreover, rising temperatures
increase the rate at which water evaporates (or transpires) into the air
from soils, plants, and reservoirs, which would further exacerbate drought
During droughts, rising sea level could make fresh water less available—
particularly groundwater, which provides 80 percent of Guam’s water
supply. Most of Guam’s fresh water comes from the northern part of the
island, which has a “lens” of fresh groundwater floating on top of the
heavier, saltier water. Some wells already produce salty water during dry
periods when the freshwater lens becomes thinner; prolonged drought
could make more of Guam’s wells salty. Rising sea level could also cause
salt water to infiltrate farther into the island’s groundwater.
Inland Plants and Animals
Warmer temperatures and changes in rainfall could expand, shrink, or
shift the ranges of various plants and animals in Guam’s forests, depending on the conditions that each species requires. Many tropical plants
and animals could be threatened by warming, as they are accustomed to
the temperatures that currently prevail in Guam, which are fairly steady
year-round. It is unclear whether species could tolerate the weather often
being warmer than it ever is today. Some native species could be crowded
out by invasive species better adapted to the changing climate, and some
could face extinction.
Human Health
Hot days can be unhealthy—even dangerous. Rising temperatures will increase the frequency of hot days and warm nights. High air temperatures
can cause heat stroke and dehydration and affect people’s cardiovascular
and nervous systems. Warm nights are especially dangerous because
they prevent the human body from cooling off after a hot day. Certain people are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor. Military personnel also face a higher risk of heat-related illness because they perform intense physical activities outdoors, they often wear layers of protective equipment, and many are from cooler climates and not acclimated to Guam’s warm and humid climate.
The sources of information about climate and the impacts of climate change in this publication are: the national climate assessments by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, synthesis and assessment products by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and EPA’s Climate Change Indicators in the United States. Mention of a particular season, location, species, or any other aspect of an impact does not imply anything about the likelihood or importance of aspects that are not mentioned.


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In Antarctica, Thwaites Glacier is melting at an alarming rate

Last December, I posted a piece about the Greenland ice melting much quicker than expected.  Now, it would appear that a similar – and alarming – phenomenon is happening in Antarctica and in particular to the Thwaites Glacier.  A long description of the studies going on in Antarctica are published in the Financial Times:

The location, and comparative size, of the glacier can be seen in the following image, sourced from the Norwegian Polar Institute and included in the FT article.

Thwaites glacier

Thwaites Glacier is only a small part of the Antarctic ice but, in size, approximates to the size of England and Wales (see insert above).  According to the article, it is the most vulnerable place in Antarctica because several chunks of ice have already broken away from it. The studies of the glacier are part of a joint effort between British and American scientists.  The glacier is being studied in order to predict how much the sea level will rise in the future.

Antarctica holds around 90 per cent of the ice on the planet and is equivalent to the size of Europe.  It is covered in a blanket of ice, 2km thick. And as the planet heats up due to climate change, the polar regions warm much faster. This puts the icy continents of Antarctica and Greenland, in the Arctic region, right at the forefront of the effects of global warming. The South Pole has warmed at three times the global rate since 1989.

Scientists believe that, if Thwaites glacier is removed, other ice which it is holding back, will start draining into the ocean. By itself, Thwaites could raise sea levels about 65cm as it melts. But if it goes, there will be a knock-on effect across the western half of Antarctica, which could lead to between 2m and 3m of sea level rise, a rise that would be catastrophic for most coastal cities.


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People living near the Norfolk coast will need to relocate due to sea level rise

A report in the Mirror on September 10th 2019:

Thousands of families on the British coast will have to move inland as sea levels rise, an international commission has warned. It is claimed that entire communities may need to relocate to higher ground due to the effects of climate change.

north norfolk

A report from the Environment Agency states: “Protecting against or accommodating sea level rise in low-lying areas may no longer be possible and coastal residents may need to systematically retreat.”  Emma Howard Boyd warned in May that “it was not possible to protect against flooding by building “infinitely high walls and barriers”.

The Committee on Climate Change has also warned that the number of UK homes at risk from coastal erosion could rise from 5,000 to 32,000 by 2050.



A new report from the Global Commission urges governments to invest more in urgent adaptations to incursions from the sea.

The District Council leader in North Norfolk said: “Climate change is the fault of everybody so why should a few people at the coast bear the problem?”

Charles Lydon & Jonathan Staley.

The UK is to be the host of the key United Nations climate talks in Glasgow in November 2020. The COP26 meeting is the most important summit since the global Paris Agreement in 2015.


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Predictions: climate refugees to reach 50 million by 2050

From the Huffington Post:

It has been predicted that by 2050, the number of climate refugees could rise to 50 million.

The global sea level rose about eight inches in the last century. The rate in the last twenty years, however, is nearly double that of the last century.

Sea level rise is caused primarily by two factors related to global warming: the added water from melting ice sheets and glaciers and the expansion of sea water as it warms. The current NASA estimation is that by 2100 the sea levels will rise by up to four feet – depending on how quickly land-based glaciers melt.

Small island nations and cities built on water will be affected the most.

50 million people will be displaced from their homes due to sea level rise.  That is 10 times the number of Syrian refugees.

The question is – where will they go?

The full 32-minute video, covering an expedition to Antarctica, can be seen here:

It has been made to look at the issue of climate change from a different perspective, though I find that the style of  presentation and editing, though not meant, tends to trivialise the whole issue.  However, it includes some important footage of Trump and other climate change deniers, as well as interviews and footage from people from a variety of countries across the globe, including the Marshall Islands and India.

November 2017:  A new approach to the issue of climate refugees is being pioneered by New Zealand.  See the full report at:

New Zealand could become the first country in the world to recognize climate change as a valid reason to be granted residency, according to an interview with a government minister on Tuesday.

The nation’s newly elected government is considering creating a new visa category for Pacific Islanders displaced by climate change. If implemented, New Zealand’s proposal would offer up to 100 humanitarian visas per year as an experimental — and unprecedented — trial.

The 1951 Refugee Convention does not cover people displaced across borders due to climate change. Though Fiji had previously committed to providing future climate refuge to Pacific neighbours, the New Zealand proposal marks the first time a developed country has considered addressing the international legal protection gap with a regional visa agreement.

Further discussion of this offer, with especial reference to Kiribati, can be found in the blog entitled The Effects of Sea Level Rise on Island Nations.

woman_kiribatiA woman swimming at high tide near her house in Kiribati 2017



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20 Countries Most At Risk From Sea Level Rise

Sea level has risen globally by around 20 cm from 1901 to 2010, at an average rate of 1.7 mm per year. The rate has increased over this period and is currently 3.2 mm per year. It is estimated that around 70 per cent of sea level rise from 1970 to 2005 can be attributed to human activities. At present the largest contribution is caused by  thermal expansion of the world’s oceans – the volume of water increasing simply due to warming (40 per cent of the increase from 1993 to 2015). The rest is from the better-known losses of land ice from glaciers (25 per cent) and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets (20 per cent), along with transfer from land water sources such as groundwater and snow (15 per cent), with the ice sheet contributions increasing during this period. Data from Dr Tamsin Edwards’ report cited below.

pinn rising sea levels.jpg

Climate Central just completed a novel analysis of worldwide exposure to sea level rise and coastal flooding. They found that 147 to 216 million people live on land that will be below sea level or regular flood levels by the end of the century, assuming emissions of heat-trapping gases continue on their current trend.


Only countries with a total population of over 1 million were included in the Climate Central analysis.  This means that most island nations do not appear in their tables, which are copied below:


These tables appear to grade countries according to the size of their populations and what proportion of that population is at risk from coastal flooding.  Thus, China would have the greatest number of their inhabitants affected by sea level rise but, in terms of the percentage of their population as a whole, this is only 4%.  Conversely, the Netherlands have a smaller number of their people at risk from coastal inundation, compared with China, but this represents almost half (47%) of their total population, putting them at the top of the table, percentage-wise. However, Vietnam comes second in the list, however the calculation is done, and Japan comes third and fourth. So many Asian countries are particularly at risk.

Chapter 1 (Figure 15) of my book features some of the maps produced by National Geographic Creative.  These show the new coastlines if all of the ice caps were to melt. From these maps, I personally would want to place countries like Bangladesh, the Netherlands, Denmark, Cambodia, Japan, much of the eastern coast of USA (especially Florida), southern Thailand, much of Indonesia, most of the Pacific and Indian ocean island nations, very close to the top of the list.  But then, I am looking at them in terms of territory lost, rather than the numbers of people displaced.  It would be interesting to see these tables showing countries rated according to how much territory they would lose.

Another factor that needs to be looked at is the huge numbers of major cities of the world which would go under water.  They include:

Alexandria, Amsterdam, Auckland, Baghdad, Bangkok, Beijing, Berlin, Bissau, Boston, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Cancun, Copenhagen, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Dhaka, Doha, Freetown, Georgetown, Helsinki, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Houston, Jakarta, Kolkata, Lagos, Lisbon, London, Manila, Maputo, Melbourne, Miami, Montevideo, Montreal, New Orleans, New York, Phnom Penh, Rangoon, Riga, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Singapore, Stockholm, Tallinn, Tampa, Tokyo, Vancouver, Venice.



A recent article in The Guardian (5.10.18) focuses just on what is happening in the cities of the world, some of which are sinking (some due to the weight of the tall buildings that have been built there eg Bangkok), as well as sea-level rise and other reasons, such as the geology of the area.  Sinking cities include London, Shanghai, Jakarta and Houston.  A report from Christian Aid also focuses on the cities that are sinking and describes Jakarta, which is said to be sinking by 25 cm a year, largely because of groundwater extraction. Houston is sinking as the oil wells beneath it are depleted. The Christian Aid study focused on eight of the major cities of the world. For full details of the situation facing Jakarta (Indonesia), see the following report:

Jakarta_slumhome_2-1 (2)

Slums in Jakarta, the world’s fastest sinking city

Many cities have been built in coastal areas and near major rivers.  This makes them vulnerable, not only to sea level rise but also to storm surges.  Amitav Ghosh has discussed the situation regarding Asian cities like Mumbai and Kolkata in his book “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable” (2016, published by University of Chicago Press).  He comments on Asia’s late entry into the process of industrialisation and believes that, due to the numbers of people involved, this has brought the climate crisis to a head.  He surmises that “The brute fact is that no strategy can work globally unless it works in Asia and is adopted by large numbers of Asians.” 

And to add to these reports, there was a recent piece in The Times, warning about the effects of rising sea levels in Scotland.  It can be found at:

According to the Times report, scores of coastal towns, Prestwick airport and Faslane are all at risk, although Scotlandas a whole is rising rather than sinking.

And another recent report from Molly Rubin in Quartz, reports on measures that are being taken in New York to prevent another storm surge like the one that occurred with Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It involves a system of underwater gates, which can be raised and lowered to block surges. The UK and Netherlands use similar systems: the Thames Barrier in London and Maeslantkering in Rotterdam.

With more superstorms predicted, there’s a dream project to keep New York above water

The US clearly has the money to introduce such systems, which developing countries do not have.


The Thames Barrier in London

And another recent article, this time in The Guardian (3rd November 2017) focuses on Lincolnshire and outlines how much farmland and coastal regions will go under water with 3 degrees of global warming, changing the coastline for ever.

According to The Guardian, the county is a major recipient of the government’s six-year £2.5bn programme to strengthen sea and flood barriers in England. This is done with a mix of soft defences (sandy shores, mudflats and wetlands to absorb wave impact) by the coast along with hard defences (concrete walls) further inland.  The authorities replenish eroded beaches such as Skegness each year with 350,000 cubic metres of of sand. Earlier this year, two new flood-alleviation reservoirs were completed in Louth and Horncastle. A public inquiry has also been held for a £100m flood barrier scheme in Boston.

This is another example of a developed country being able financially to deal with the effects of sea level rise.


A coastal region of the flat Lincolnshire countryside

A 2015 report in The Guardian states that some UK coastal communities could be facing up to 6 metres of sea level rise, even if it is possible to keep global warming below 2 degees.

I have just come across a Government-commissioned report on the impact of sea level rise on the UK.  The 39-page report “Future of the Sea:Current and Future Impacts of sea level rise on the UK” has been written by Dr Tamsin Edwards and published in August 2017.  It can be found at:

Click to access Future_of_the_sea_-_sea_level_rise.pdf

Below is a copy of the executive summary of the report:

Sea level rise increases coastal flooding and erosion, creating risks for UK
infrastructure, communities, businesses and natural capital. Coastal flooding is one of the top four priority risks for the UK Government, and estimated annual damages are £540 million. Sea level rise projections for the 21st century are very uncertain, generally ranging from around 25 cm to around 1 m (depending on greenhouse gas emissions and ranges of modelling uncertainties), with a few estimates consistent with 1.5–2.5 m.
Uncertainty in the Antarctic ice sheet response to climate change is the largest driver of uncertainty concerning sea level rise during this century. The first study to estimate probabilities of sea level rise from rapid Antarctic ice losses, co-led by the UK, strengthens evidence for the lower end: median total sea level rise of around 70 cm, implying estimated annual damages of £1.3–1.5 billion in the 2080s under current adaptation. A high-profile 2016 study has mean Antarctic estimates consistent with 2 m total sea level rise, but with large uncertainties and no consensus on their reliability. The UK is in a strong position to reduce this uncertainty due to world-leading expertise.
The 2017 Climate Change Risk Assessment is wide-ranging, but the underlying research may systematically underestimate coastal flood risks. Better understanding of coastal processes, correlated risks (floods and impacts connected across space, time, business, sectors or nations), indirect impacts (such as disruption), infrastructure exposure and vulnerability, and the impacts of population and demographic changes on risk, would increase confidence that risks are sufficiently assessed.
Risks can be reduced with sea defences, coastline realignment, land-use planning,
forecasting, and property-level protection. However, not all risks can be offset, increasingly so with sea level rise and population increase.
Response options for risk management include improving data collection, understanding, and uptake. Exposure and vulnerability data are sparse in several areas such as infrastructure and wellbeing, and the co-benefits and negative impacts of adaptation are not well-quantified. Use of existing evidence on risk management is limited in key sectors across individuals, infrastructure, businesses and local authorities.”

Following on from this is a report in The Guardian , which warns that 12 of Britain’s  19 nuclear sites are on land at risk of coastal flooding and erosion due to climate change. The information is from a government document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act in 2012.  Among the sites at risk is Hinckley Point in Somerset, which is one of eight sites around the UK which has been proposed for the building of new nuclear power stations.  See:

Among the list of countries at risk of coastal flooding at the beginning of the article is Thailand (7th on list 1 and 3rd on list 2).  A new report about this country and its capital, Bangkok, can be found in the Financial Times and at:

In the South China Morning Post, the heading is given:

Bangkok is sinking. How will Thailand’s capital cope when flooding disaster strikes again?

With the weight of skyscrapers contributing to the city’s gradual descent into water, Bangkok has become a victim of its own frenetic development.  Bangkok is a sprawling city of more than 10 million and is under siege from the environment, with dire forecasts warning it could be partially submerged in just over a decade.

Bangkok, built on once-marshy land about 1.5 metres (five feet) above sea level, is projected to be one of the world’s hardest hit urban areas. “Nearly 40 per cent” of Bangkok will be inundated by as early as 2030 due to extreme rainfall and changes in weather patterns, according to a World Bank report. Currently, the capital “is sinking one to two centimetres a year and there is a risk of massive flooding in the near future,” said Tara Buakamsri of Greenpeace.


Flooding in Bangkok

August 2019

Other Asian cities are also sinking, for example Jakarta and Manila.

Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, has announced that the country will relocate its capital Jakarta to the island of Borneo. Taking on concerns of overcrowding, pollution, and income disparity, the move also hopes to address issues of extreme land subsidence. The new city would be built over 800 miles away from the current capital.



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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”.


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Our Beautiful World in Harmony


Our beautiful world in harmony

One October, when I was about 6 years old, my mother took me out for a treat. My older siblings were involved in other things and this was a rare opportunity for me to have my mother’s undivided attention. We walked to a local park, Scotch Common, which had a variety of trees, beginning to show their autumn colours: coppers, browns, golds, ochres and reds. We identified some of the trees as horse chestnut, oak and sycamore and then searched beneath them to collect their seeds: shiny brown conkers with a varnish-like sheen, green and brown acorns, some separated from their craggy cups, and the winged sycamore paired seeds, which would spiral slowly down to the ground if you threw them into the air.  Mum suggested I take a selection to school to put on the nature table.

I don’t know why this incident sticks in my mind but I believe that it may have been the beginning of a growing love of nature in me, which is still a significant part of my identity.  Though I am now 73 years old, each autumn I still collect conkers and acorns and sycamore seeds for my own nature table at home. I don’t know how much longer I will be able to do this, as the seasons are changing so much. Already the conker crop last year seemed smaller and autumn was extended with a mild spell, with golden leaves on the trees until well into November, and winter still not started by Christmas. Are we in danger of losing some of these great trees and their fruit and their annual cycles related to the seasons?  Why is it that we have summer flowers still in blossom in December and reports that in some parts of the UK, the spring flowers (daffodils etc) are already in blossom in December?

Yes, I love nature but my love of animals far surpasses that of the plant kingdom.  We share this world with some wonderful creatures: the large wild carnivores and herbivores of Africa and Asia; the strange marsupials of Australasia; the prairie animals; the domesticated pets who share our homes with us; the birds who visit our gardens and who migrate across great oceans every year; the creatures and fish of the seas; the inhabitants of the polar ice caps and the smaller secretive wild mammals who live in burrows.

I believe that I am not the only person in this world who loves nature in this way and who respects and enjoys the splendour of our world. We live on a magnificent planet and share it with some spectacular creatures.

I am writing this book because I believe that we are in danger of losing it all. And the magnitude of this loss is greater, and the need for action more urgent, than many believe.

How everything fits together in harmony

It has been known for more than 50 years, and certainly since I was at school during the 50s and 60s, that the process of photosynthesis in plants is closely linked to the process of respiration in animals. Indeed, one could almost describe the relationship between plants and animals as symbiotic, one being dependent upon the other to maintain its life.  The plant life on the planet absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and water from the soil and, through chemical reactions, changes them into glucose and oxygen. The oxygen is released into the air and breathed in by the animal life (including ourselves). In animals, oxygen is inhaled and carbon dioxide is released through the process of respiration.  Thus, plants provide oxygen for animals to breathe and animals exhale carbon dioxide, which is used by plants in the process of photosynthesis.

This photosynthetic cycle has been analysed and shown to be a series of chemical reactions, all initially triggered by light energy from the sun.  Chloroplasts in plants (in the green chlorophyll) trap the sunlight, which provides the energy for the photosynthetic cycle (Fig.1).

Fig 1. The relationship between photosynthesis in plants and respiration in animals

the process of photosynthesis

From:                                          with permission

This process happens throughout nature, from the very smallest algae and plankton to the giant trees in our forests and from the smallest amoebae and zooplankton in water to the largest of our land and sea mammals (elephants and whales) – an interchange of gases and chemical products between plants and animals which is important to sustain life.

But the photosynthetic and respiratory cycles do not stand alone.  They are inter-linked with other kinds of cycles, the chemical processes of which have been carefully studied by scientists.  For example, plants store another product of photosynthesis (glucose or starch) and this is consumed by herbivorous and omnivorous animals and provides them with the energy they need for growth and development. Thus, there is a transfer of energy from the sun to plants and then on to animals, this energy is needed to sustain life.  And none of this could begin without the presence of the sun itself – at exactly the right strength.


Illustration by LizzardBrandInc, with permission from UCAR

There are other cycles in nature too: the nitrogen cycle, the Krebs cycle (to process and release energy) and the carbon cycle (Fig 2), which is closely linked to the respiratory cycle of animals.  The carbon cycle involves the decomposition of dead and decaying matter into fossil fuels (see later for the significance of this).

Following the discovery of interactive cycles in nature, it was not long before the whole concept of food chains was proposed, with the lowest forms of life being consumed by the next species up the food chain, from herbivores (plant eaters) to omnivores (plant and meat eaters), with the carnivores (big cats, birds of prey etc) at the top of the food chain.  Thus, the sun’s energy is transferred first through plants to animals and then up through the food chain, simplified diagrams of which are in Figure 3.

Fig 3.  Simple Food chains

From: (with permission)

 The diagrams in Fig.3 show simplified food chains but, in fact, things are rarely as simple as this and the concept of a “food web” is much closer to reality. Figure 4 shows a woodland food web, which can be seen to be much more complex than a simple chain, with various species being inter-dependent.

Image result for woodland food web

Figure 4:  A Woodland Food Web from, (with permission)

 A recent programme on BBC TV, “Secrets of our Living Planet”, also available on DVD9, gave examples of some fascinating food webs throughout the world, from tropical rain forests, to savannahs and in the oceans, and demonstrated that if one member of the web disappeared, then others wouldn’t survive.  The most compelling example of this was the brazil nut tree, which relied on a small rodent, the agouti (Fig. 5), to crack and disperse its seeds, as well as an orchid, which grew on its trunk and attracted a particular species of bee, to pollinate both tree and orchid, the male bee pollinating one and the female bee pollinating the other, with the bees reliant on the nectar in the flowers for their survival.

Fig 5 – the Brazilian agouti (from with permission)

So we can see from this that, not only is there an interaction and inter-dependency between plants and animals, but that inter-dependency continues throughout the animal kingdom, in a complex web.  Thus, if one species disappears, or becomes extinct, this may also affect other species, which are dependent on it as a food source or pollinator. This whole interaction between members of the plant and animal species is called an ecosystem.

I feel that the interaction of all the cycles and ecosystems is close to being miraculous.  Our world has been regulated in an astounding way.  It is as if everything on this planet has been put in place in ecosystems, or has evolved, to work harmoniously, so that all life on this planet remains in balance, in a wonderful connectedness and interdependency that maintains life.

I love to wander through parts of our green land, with rolling hills and tranquil forests, just taking in the beauty of it. I also love to visit beaches to hear the sea and breathe in the clean, salty ocean air. It is not surprising therefore that I have been  excited by the hypothesis proposed by the scientist, James Lovelock, in 197910, which states that the earth itself is a self-regulating body;  that the earth is like one big organism with the ability to regulate critical systems to meet its own needs and to sustain life. It is called the Gaia Hypothesis.

Image result for gaia hypothesis

Fig.6 Gaia Hypothesis (from

The regulatory mechanisms which have been keeping all life in balance and harmony for thousands of years are now being undermined and put out of harmony by the hand of man.   Let’s have a look at what we have been doing to place all this at risk and what we need to do to make things right again.

Our beautiful world no longer in harmony

Fossil fuels, produced as part of the carbon cycle, have been used by humans for centuries, but especially since the industrial revolution, to produce other forms of energy for humans to heat their homes, run their vehicles, power up vast factories and to develop more and more complex gadgets and life-enhancing commodities.  The downside of this practice is, of course, that carbon dioxide and other toxic gases are released into the atmosphere as a by-product of their use, resulting in global warming.

Global warming is the rise in average global surface temperature caused primarily by the build-up of human-produced greenhouses gases, mostly carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat in the lower levels of the atmosphere.

At the beginning of the industrial revolution it was not realised that the plant life on earth could not cope with absorbing all the extra carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere from manufacturing and the problem was made worse by the felling of many of the great trees in the mighty rainforests of the earth, in order to clear land for agriculture and to sell the wood.  Figure 7 shows the dramatic increase in fossil fuel emissions since 1870. This is comprised mainly of carbon dioxide.

 Fig.7  Fossil fuel emissions since 1751

Projection of global carbon emissions from fossil fuel use, 1751 to 2006 (CDIAC data)


GteC refers to Giga-tonnes of carbon

 Human activity has been bringing all the ecosystems on the planet into an imbalance and a resulting effect of this has been the loss of numerous species, as well as changes to the climate and global temperatures.

Another way in which plant life and animal life (insects and birds) have interactive cycles is the way in which bees depend on flowers for nectar and, in visiting plants to feed on nectar, they inadvertently brush against the pollen in the flower stamens.  They then carry this pollen on their bodies to other flowers and become the means by which pollination occurs in plants (part of the reproductive cycle of plants).  Recently, vast decreases in the numbers of bees have been noticed and this is thought to be caused by the use of pesticides on plants.  If the bees were to disappear altogether, pollination might not occur and this could reduce some of the food sources available to us.  Vegetables and fruit known to be pollinated by bees are okra, kiwifruit, onion, celery, cashew nuts, strawberries, papaya, custard apples, turnips, beet, brazil nuts, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, water melon, coconut, tangerine, cucumber, quince, fig, apple, walnuts, mangos, avocados, peach, nectarine, pear, raspberry, blackberry, elderberry, cocoa, passion fruit and many others.

Thus, the loss of bees might result in the loss of most of the vegetables and fruits that the human race, and other species, rely upon for their food.

Fig 8:  Bees in the process of pollinating flowers

Image result for diagram of cycle of bees pollinating flowers

Originally from: but no longer at this link, so try: for alternatives.

See also:


There have been vast changes in the way that farmers have carried out their agricultural activities in recent years; they have copied some processes from the manufacturing industry to become more “productive”, using intensive farming methods, removing hedgerows and maximising the use of their fields.  Over this same period, certain species of birds have been disappearing because the insects in hedgerows that they feed on are no longer there, or have been killed off with pesticides.

Wikipedia lists 190 species of birds which have become extinct since 1500 and a further 321 are currently endangered, including the cuckoo and several of our garden species.

A recent report from American scientists, Ceballos and colleagues11, suggests that human activity has already triggered the beginnings of another mass extinction, thereby threatening our own future. According to this group, there have been five mass extinctions in the earth’s past (the extinction of dinosaurs being the most well-known) and that this latest threat to the planet would be its sixth mass extinction. They state that, in the last century, vertebrates (animals with backbones) have been disappearing at a rate 114 times greater than would normally be expected, without the destructive activity of humans.  They pointed out that, since 1900, over 400 more vertebrates than expected had vanished; this included 69 mammals, 80 birds, 24 reptiles, 146 amphibians and 158 fish species.  They warn that species loss will have a significant effect on human populations in as little as three generations.  The researchers concluded that this destruction of species is accelerating and initiating a mass extinction episode unparalleled for 65 million years.

This report has triggered significant discussion within the scientific community, and some have ventured to include humans (also vertebrates) as part of this extinction.  They are confident that bees will definitely be extinct by then and perhaps many of the large carnivores, such as lions. Whether humans also become extinct depends, one supposes, on whether those creatures and plants which we rely on for food, have disappeared in this mass extinction.  It is estimated that 2,000 sheep and 100 cattle were drowned in the recent floods engulfing the north of England, so the loss of our food sources due to climate change is a possibility.  So, with bees gone and the vegetables that they pollinate and the loss of some of our meat sources, things look bleak for humans in the future too. A number of organisations are predicting crop failures due to climate change by 2030, particularly in the poorer countries in Asia and Africa.

There are also concerns about the effects of climate change on human health12. This 43-page significant publication by Antony Costello and others gives evidence of grave concern to human health.

Anthony Costello, director of the UCL Institute for Global Health said: “Our analysis clearly shows that by tackling climate change, we can also benefit health — and tackling climate change in fact represents one of the greatest opportunities to benefit human health for generations to come”. And Hugh Montgomery who co-chaired the Commission said, “Climate change is a medical emergency. It thus demands an emergency response, using the technologies available right now”.

Also, in its 2010 report “A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change”13 the National Institute on Environmental Health Sciences gives a list of the health consequences of increased greenhouse gases and climate change. The list includes about twelve major health risks.  The human population would therefore seem to be as much at risk as the creatures with whom we share this planet.

And yet, humans don’t seem to be able to stop tinkering with the natural order of things in the ecosystems of the world.  One vivid example comes from Australia where, in 1935, a toad from South America was introduced to Queensland, with the aim of using it to consume cane beetles, which were damaging sugar cane crops.  This toad did not eat the beetle and instead multiplied in huge numbers, because it had no natural predators, so that the cane toad is now a national pest.  It is also poisonous to other species and is now being blamed for a massive reduction in the number of dwarf crocodiles in Australia.

Fig. 9: Cane Toad

Image result for cane toad

To go back to farming practices:  Fields are no longer left to lie fallow and so do not have a chance to replenish the nutrients found in soil that are essential to plant life, so that they become less productive.  However, some farmers are now introducing permaculture, with good results and organic farming is also on the increase.

During the 1990’s the condition of “mad cow disease” (BSE – bovine spongiform encephalopathy) appeared in the UK and it was eventually discovered that foodstuffs fed to cattle at that time had been processed from animal sources and so cows, who are herbivores, were being fed foodstuffs which turned them into not only carnivores but also cannibals.  This violation of the natural food chains had far reaching consequencies, as it would appear that it could be passed on to humans who consumed meat from cattle with BSE, the human form of the disease being named CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease).  Another example of human activity which had devastating effects on the life of the planet.

In a recent “Springwatch” programme on BBC TV, we were made aware of another dangerous practice:  the production of exfoliation products for washing our faces; these soap-based products contain tiny particles of plastic (which do the exfoliation); these are washed down sinks and eventually get down via rivers into the sea.  They are absorbed by microplankton, which are subsequently eaten by fish – and thus find their way into the food chain, if they do not kill the fish off first.

So here we have several kinds of human activity that are interfering with the natural cycles and transfer of chemicals and energy through the plant and animal kingdoms, as well as through the food chains:

  • the whole industrialisation process, which releases excessive carbon dioxide and other toxic pollutants into the air;
  • the use of pesticides to enhance agricultural production, which has killed off bees and other insects and also birds;
  • intensive farming methods which have eliminated hedgerows and thus the bird species which rely on them for nests and food;
  • the feeding of processed animal products to herbivores;
  • the expansion in the use of exfoliants, which get into rivers and seas and work their way up through the food chain;
  • the introduction of non-native species into other countries;
  • deforestation and land clearance.

And these have not been the only human activities to do this. Humans also exploit the animal kingdom, sometimes in very cruel ways, in order to make money for themselves and this has also put some species at risk of extinction.  This exploitation includes killing elephants for ivory, rhinos for their horns, sharks for their fins, bears for their bile, pangolins and forest mammals for their meat and capturing baby monkeys and other primates, some from rare species, to sell in markets. Some species, such as the tiger, are currently threatened because of habitat loss or fragmentation. Forests where the tiger lives are cleared for agricultural activity, such as growing palm oil. Many other species are also in danger because of habitat loss (orang utan, elephant, rhino, polar bear etc).  As I write, we hear about a huge fire in the country of Indonesia, originally started to clear forest for the planting of palm oil crops, but now burning out of control, leaving a smoky haze over a wide area.  Indonesia is the only habitat for the endangered orang utan, as well as the rare Bornean white-bearded gibbon, sun bears and pangolins.

Global warming has led to the melting of the ice caps and a subsequent rise of sea levels, so that some island nations are at risk of disappearing into the sea. Scientists have predicted that global average surface temperatures are likely to rise by 3-4˚ within the lifespan of today’s teenagers, though there are efforts to keep it down to below 1.5˚.   The BBC recently reported that, as 2015 has been a particularly hot year, the average global temperature is likely to increase above 1˚ for the first time14. In a later chapter I will discuss the efforts being made at UN level to keep the temperature rise below 1.5˚.

 Fig. 10 – increases in global average temperature since 1860


From: (GCSE Bitesize)

Recent reports, described in the Guardian, have demonstrated that global temperatures in 2016 have been the hottest since records began15  so that 2016 is likely to be the hottest on record, with 2015 was the hottest year on record before that and 2014 the hottest year before that.

Also affected has been the climate, with more frequent catastrophic events, such as tornados and cyclones, mud slides, flooding, droughts, desertification etc. With the melting of the polar ice caps, the ecological balance of species living in these areas has also been disturbed, the most well-known being the polar bear, which can no longer rely on its main food resource, the seal.

 FIG 11: A starving and emaciated female polar bear on a small block of ice

Image result for emaciated polar bear

Photograph by Kerstin Langenberger with permission

 Already, in several parts of the world there has been a rise in sea level, affecting especially coastal areas and island nations (Maldives, Marshall Islands, Philippines, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands). Over the past century, the world’s oceans have risen 4-8 inches. It is reported that several rocket launch areas and space stations in the US will have to be moved inland, because of the risk of flooding.  Scientific models have suggested that sea levels will rise by 20 centimetres by 2050 (that’s another 8 inches), or triple that if the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica continue to melt. The acidity of the sea has also increased by 30%, due to it absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to form carbonic acid and this puts some marine creatures and coral at risk.  Coral reefs are particularly in danger, especially the iconic Great Barrier Reef, just off Australia. Australia’s recent surge in industrialisation projects (mega-mines, dredging and railway projects) has put the reef in danger with rapid destruction of the coral. We are told that 50% of coral has been lost since the 1980s, due to the warming of the sea.

Fig. 12: Bleaching of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef

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Fig. 13 – the increases in sea level over the last century.                                                  Source: US EPA Climate Change website

Most worrying are the vast permafrost regions of the world (Siberia, Canada, Alaska), where the earth remains below freezing point, even during the summer.  If the temperature of these areas increases, then large quantities of methane will be released into the atmosphere, adding to the problems of global warming that we already have.

At this time, there are campaigning groups trying to stop companies drilling for oil in the Arctic ocean, where the sea ice is already melting at a rapid rate. Recent studies in Greenland have shown that there is evidence that the glaciers are shrinking and the ice is thinning.  A recent report from the Californian Institute of Technology states that one of the biggest glaciers in Greenland, Zachariae Isstrom, which holds enough ice to raise the sea level by 18 inches, has broken loose from a stable position and is melting at both ends, with ice crumbling into the North Atlantic Ocean.  Greenland is the second largest ice body in the world and already contributes to about 40% of the current sea level rise.  Since 1992, 65 million tons of Antarctic ice has melted.

Fig. 14: The Shrinking of Arctic sea ice between 1979 and 2016

copyright: Andy Lee Haviland (with permission)

Some have made calculations about what would happen to the world if all the ice caps were to melt and it is quite clear that, not only island nations, but also whole countries and some major cities would be swallowed up by the sea.  The map below shows what would happen to Europe in this circumstance.  Such a circumstance would remove much of the UK, especially the eastern areas and around the wash and the Thames, the whole of the Netherlands, Belgium, almost all of Denmark, part of northern Germany and Russia, much of Turkey and the Baltic regions. Venice would disappear into the Adriatic Sea and the Caspian and Black Seas would become much larger.  Worldwide, we would lose Bangladesh, Singapore, some of the Philippine Islands, much of Sumatra and Papua New Guinea, the whole of Florida, several Caribbean islands, Tuvalu and much of China.  Huge inland seas would develop in Australia, around the Amazon and Paraguay River basins and delta areas would also be inundated (Mekong, Nile, Ganges), leading to the submergence of Cairo and Alexandria.  Due to differences in ocean currents, the sea level increase would be higher in some areas than others (eg the eastern seaboard of the USA).  Africa’s coastline would not be as affected as that of some other continents but, due to temperature rises, some parts would become so hot that they would be uninhabitable.

In 2014, the University of Notre Dame produced a definitive ranking system that showed how countries around the world would fare if global warming increased at its current rate.

The rankings took into account the country’s location, its population density and how financially equipped it was to deal with the rising sea level and increase in temperature.

Fig 15 and 15a: Pictures showing new coastline of Europe if all the ice caps were to melt – the outer line shows coastlines as they are at present     Source: National Geographic Creative (with permission)

Related image

All of the changes described above have not gone unnoticed and there have been numerous campaigns and demonstrations to prevent some of the human activities which are endangering our planet, some more successful than others. For example, in the Netherlands, one of the countries most at risk of rising sea levels, the Hague District Court recently ordered the Dutch government to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by 2020.  This arose following a complaint by an activist group.  The Netherlands is particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming, with much of its land lying below sea level.  The island nations are also at risk of being swallowed up by the sea but this is as a result of greenhouse gas emissions of other countries, rather than their own. And the Philippines were recently devastated by Cyclone Yolande.  All of this is summarised in a short video clip on Facebook (

The United Nations has been taking action, ever since the Rio Summit in 1992 (to be described in a later chapter) but it is not enough, as carbon emissions continue to rise.  As I started to write this book, the latest summit (CPO21 in Paris) had not yet taken place but, by the time it was finished, an agreement had been reached, which will be discussed in Chapter 8.

Some of the toxic chemicals released from human manufacturing activity, such as nitrous oxide and bromine and chlorine compounds (CFCs), have the effect of depleting the ozone layer, which exists in the earth’s atmosphere.  The purpose of the ozone layer is to absorb ultra-violet rays from the sun. Ozone levels in the stratosphere have reduced by 4% since 1970 and there is an ozone hole over the Antarctic circle – again more evidence that human activity is affecting the stability of the planet.

So many factors have been interacting to create the global situation in which we are at the moment and this book attempts to show how they interrelate. Each chapter in this book will look at a different factor, which has put the planet and its species at risk and will show, I hope, that each of these has an inter-connectedness.  We therefore need to tackle every factor, not just one in isolation.  Scientists have said that we have only three generations to do this before things have gone too far.  If the exponential graphs shown in Figures 7, 11 and 15 continue at this rate, then we probably have even less time than three generations to reverse the changes.

A short piece of film has recently been circulated on the internet, which summarizes all of these risk factors, and is especially targeted at those who, like me, love and cherish the natural world16.

Scientists have predicted that, in three generations time, there will be a mass extinction of many of the animal species inhabiting this planet.  It is not clear whether this extinction will include humans but many of the animal, insect and bird species that we have grown to love will have gone by then.  I think the risk is there for human populations as well, so I have used this “3 generations” factor as the title of this book and in most of the assessments and discussions which follow. Let’s hope that this never happens but using 3 generations as a rule of thumb will hopefully concentrate the minds of those who are in positions in which they can make the changes needed to ensure that this never becomes a reality.