Friday, December 19, 2008

Seas will rise faster than predicted, say scientists

By Frank Pope, Ocean Correspondent, The Times

Sea levels will rise much faster than previously forecast because of the rate that glaciers and ice sheets are melting, a study has found.

Research commissioned by the US Climate Change Science Program concludes that the rises will substantially exceed forecasts that do not take into account the latest data and observations.

The adjusted outlook, announced at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, suggests that recent predictions of a rise of between 7in and 2ft over the next century are conservative.

The study predicts that sea level rises will be far higher than the levels that were set out last year by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. The research looked at prehistoric periods when the climate changed dramatically over the course of decades, and evaluated the mechanisms behind such rapid transformation. Rising sea levels were one of the major elements involved in past episodes, along with faster glacial melting, droughts and changes to the Atlantic Ocean’s heat-driven circulation.

The report also concludes that some changes will not be as bad as first thought. It says, for example, that rapid releases of methane stored in permafrost and on the seabed may be less likely than feared.Other forecasts include a severe and permanent drought in the American West. The authors state that they are “among the greatest natural hazards facing the United States and the globe today” and call for “committed and sustained” monitoring of the forces that could trigger abrupt climate change.

Peter Clark, a professor of geosciences at Oregon State University and a lead author on the report, to be published in the journal Science, said: “If we don’t monitor the vital signs of the patient, then we’ll never be in a position to advise on the best course of action to take to ward off or prepare for the potentially devastating consequences.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Human Rights Council backs Tuvalu climate change campaign

From: Radio New Zealand International , Posted at 22:40 on 16 December, 2008 UTC

A Working Group of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council is supporting Tuvalu’s call for greater international assistance in combating climate change and sea-level rise.

Linking climate change to human rights, members of the Working Group and other UN member observers noted the major difficulties encountered in guaranteeing the human rights of citizens likely to be closely affected by climate change.

A number of state delegations recommended that Tuvalu continue to take a lead role in lobbying for international action to combat climate change.

Some of those roles are reported to include participating in the discussion of the Human Rights Council on the relationship between human rights and climate change scheduled for March 2009.

Tuvalu’s Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Labour told the Working Group that Tuvalu had unique vulnerabilities to the predicted impacts of climate change and sea-level rise.

Enele Sopoaga says consideration of human rights protection and the effects of climate change is paramount in the minds of the Government of Tuvalu.

Tuvalu is exerting every effort to cope with the adverse effects of climate change and sea-level rise.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Papua New Guinea: Tens of thousands displaced by coastal flooding

Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

Date: 12 Dec 2008


BANGOK, 12 December 2008 (IRIN) - Tens of thousands of people along the northern coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG) have been displaced by flooding caused by abnormally high tides in recent days. Houses have been flooded and vegetable gardens destroyed.

According to the National Weather Service, the high sea level around the Bismarck and Solomon Seas is caused by an area of low pressure off Guam and New Caledonia. No change in the weather is expected over the next few days.

Provinces on PNG's northern shoreline are most affected.

According to the Disaster Management Centre (DMC), those worst-hit are New Ireland, where, according, to the Provincial Administration, 20,000-30,000 people have been affected; and East Sepik Province, particularly in the area around Wewak town, where 500-600 people are homeless, and one child died, according to Save the Children.

Tidal surges were continuing to wreak havoc in the area, according to provincial officials, destroying a wharf at Markham Point, portions of a hotel and two lodges, and putting shops and government installations at risk.

Over 50,000 affected

Rapid assessments are being carried out by Provincial Disaster Centres and NGOs. The PNG government estimates 50,000-80,000 people have been affected. However, the assessment process is proceeding slowly owing to the remoteness of many areas, some of which lack roads, and have limited resources and personnel. No state of emergency has been declared, but The National Disaster Centre (NDC) has declared the situation a national disaster.

"The biggest gap at this point is real knowledge from the ground. We know lots of people are displaced but with the tidal surge still continuing and remote locations, it is difficult to undertake thorough assessments," UN resident coordinator in the PNG Jacqui Badcock told IRIN.

On 11 December the National Executive Committee (NEC) approved PGK50 million (US$20 million) for relief assistance: "In today's (11 December) emergency meeting, the NEC has approved up to K50 million, but immediately released to the NDES [National Disaster Emergency Services] K20 million to provide relief assistance to people in affected areas," Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare said.

NDC chairman Manasupe Zurenuoc on 12 December appealed to donors for relief supplies, including tarpaulins, water containers, potable water, blankets, basic building tools and materials, and medicine. He also made a request for a UN Disaster and Coordination (UNDAC) team.

Aid efforts

The PNG Red Cross Society is currently conducting assessments and distributing relief in New Ireland Province and will extend its response to Sandaun Province and other affected provinces that have a Red Cross presence. Save the Children and Oxfam are already providing assistance in the Wewak area of East Sepik Province. Caritas is providing relief assistance in Manus and New Ireland provinces as well.

The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) has committed to provide 500,000 Australian dollars through various international NGO partners, and the Australian government will dispatch a C-130 military plane with tarpaulins, water containers and purification tablets to New Ireland and Manus provinces. The New Zealand Agency for International Development, the Japanese embassy and the Japan International Cooperation Agency also pledged financial assistance.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is deploying additional staff: "We stand ready to add further support if requested and remain in close contact with the PNG National Disaster Centre and the UN resident coordinator in PNG," said Terje Skadval, head of OCHA's regional office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok.