The geniuses at National Geographic have finally figured out why Tuvalu isn’t going to disappear.
“If you were faced with the threat of the disappearance of your nation, what would you do?”
That’s the question Enele Sopoaga, the prime minister of the tiny Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, asked fellow world leaders at the United Nations climate summit in Lima, Peru, in December.
It’s a question that leaders of Pacific Island states have been asking for decades. As a warming climate drives sea levels upward, low-lying island nations face an uncertain future—or no future at all, say these leaders, who warn of their nations’ imminent disappearance.
Officials in Tuvalu, 600 miles (965 kilometers) north of Fiji, have been some of the most vocal critics of the world’s large greenhouse gas emitters—industrialized nations such as the United States and China—which they accuse of not doing enough to curb emissions, contributing to the melting of ice sheets and rising seas.
“I carry a huge burden and responsibility,” Sopoaga told the climate summit delegates in Peru. “It keeps me awake at night. Will we survive? Or will we disappear under the sea?”
These are desperate questions. But how real is the threat? Are island nations like Tuvalu, where most of the land is barely above sea level, destined to sink beneath the waves, like modern-day Atlantises?
Not necessarily, according to a growing body of evidence amassed by New Zealand coastal geomorphologist Paul Kench, of the University of Auckland’s School of Environment, and colleagues in Australia and Fiji, who have been studying how reef islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans respond to rising sea levels.
They found that reef islands change shape and move around in response to shifting sediments, and that many of them are growing in size, not shrinking, as sea level inches upward. The implication is that many islands—especially less developed ones with few permanent structures—may cope with rising seas well into the next century.
This is what Charles Darwin figured out in the 1830’s. Coral atolls are constantly taking a beating from the ocean, yet they stay just above sea level by pulling CO2 out of the water and turning it into rock.
This process is how very thick coral reefs like this one in West Texas formed. As the seas rise, the coral grows with it.
Climate experts are the ultimate anti-science buffoons, having to re-discover 200 year old science before they begin to understand how stupid they are.