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Permanent Evacuation of Carteret Islands Portend Future Impact of Rising Seas

Posted Jun 03 2009 9:43am

Nestled southeast of the Philippines and northeast of Indonesia are the Carteret Islands, coral atolls on which 2,600 people live, or, used to live. You see, the entire population of the Carteret Islands is preparing for permanent evacuation due to rising seas.

For more than a decade, the Island nation of Tuvalu has been used as an example of pristine areas which will be lost to global warming. Indeed, the flooding seen there this decade has been tragic and very costly to the residents, particularly subsistence farmers. However, the damage to Tuvalu has not yet caused the entire population to vanish. In the Carteret Islands, the situation is much direr.

You see, the highest point of the islands is 170cm above the sea, approximately 6 feet. Over the past few years the Carteret Islands have been repeatedly inundated by spring tides, wiping out the islanders’ vegetable and fruit gardens, destroying their subsistence and making their lives impossible. The islanders have no choice but to evacuate and if polar melting continues this summer the way it did in 2008, the islands could be all but gone very soon.

Under President Barack Obama and his allies in the United States Congress, America’s federal government has begun to take meaningful and concrete steps toward a permanent cap on greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and an ultimate reduction to levels which the atmosphere can tolerate. However, as important as such work is, it will do nothing to help the people of the Carteret Islands or save their ancient heritage.

The next time you purchase a gallon of gasoline or flip on your light switch, take a moment to remember the very human cost of mankind’s arrogant abuse of fossil fuels.


credit: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert /Greenpeace

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