Friday, February 02, 2007

Another trick of the dark: The Tuvalu canard

Professional global warming denier, Andrew Bolt, floats a favourite from his box of tricks - the Tuvalu strawman: :::[Andrew Bolt Blog]

So when he speaks on global warming, it is with the voice of outstanding authority. Observe his latest pronouncement:

“In fact, there is an island called Tuvalu, which was completely evacuated and New Zealand accepted all the residents because of sea level rising."

Tuvalu completely evacuated? Because of rising sea levels? I’m afraid the Professor has watched Al Gore’s deceitful film just once too often.

A challenge:

Professor Dore, please pack right now and take a cruise to Tuvalu. Check in at the lovely (for Tuvalu) Vaiaku Lagi Hotel...

You get the picture.

He's used the Tuvalu strawman before, to yell at Al Gore during a media conference. I am curious about why Andrew must think that Tuvalu is the high ground in global warming denialism, so I did some research to clear up the myths that he latches onto.

Dear Andrew,

Before you go on attacking the man with such zeal - it's only as grave a error of geography as a Swede getting Adelaide and Darwin mixed up when taking about Australian beaches. Flooding and evacuation to New Zealand did happen.

What Dore seems to be referring to has happened in Manihiki in the Cook-islands, 2,840km east of Tuvalu. The atoll was hit by a hurricane (Martin) in 1997 or 1998, and 12-meter high waves swept across the coral islands and washed the islanders to the ocean. They were very lucky, only 19 people died. The survivors were evacuated to Rarotonga, and many went on to New Zealand and most of these are living there today.

The population decline went from 19,000 to 16,500 and the rest went into overdrive to plan adaption strategies, including the building of anti-surge sea walls.

The confusion with Tuvalu may be because one of it's islands HAS been rendered unihabitable. In 1997 Tuvalu was hit by three cyclones. One island one of it's nine islands was left uninhabitable. In 2001 the Tuvalu government saw the writing on the wall, so it went to neighboring countries to find a new homeland. Australia turned them down, but New Zealand said yes. So starting in 2002, the plan was that a quota of residents will move from Tuvalu to New Zealand each year for the next 30 to 50 years. Even if the Kyoto Protocol helps put the brakes on greenhouse gases, it's not likely to save Tuvalu. Generations from now, the country may be remembered only as a modern Atlantis, the first nation to be swallowed whole by the sea.

(That last bit courtesy of The Weather Notebook - but, it's not the 'sinking' that is the immediate cause for evacuation, it is the contamination of the fresh groundwater with saltwater from the combination of rising sea levels and storm surges).

I know you won't publish my comment because it sinks your strawman. But I do have the satisfaction of knowing that you now know the inconvenient truth about Tuvalu.


When we stop denying, we get the chance to learn from the real facts and events on the ground, and then make a plan. Like, how does a community recover from an extreme weather event? This traumatology paper is fascinating:



A.J.W.Taylor, Ph. D.

Others were critical of the local clergy and others in positions of authority in Rarotonga who publicly attributed the cyclone to Divine intervention for the transgressions of the community (individually and collectively), to the over-utilisation of pearl farming, failure to attend church, and working on Sundays. But although they did not refute the arguments openly for fear of causing social disruption, between themselves they declared that a) because the changing weather pattern was world-wide it was not a matter for which Cook Islanders could be held responsible, b) the politicians had changed their stance, because previously they had praised the same local pearl-farming industry for its contribution to the national economy, c) church attendance should not be obligatory and enforced by fear of disasters, and d) among those who worked on Sundays there might have been Seventh Day Adventists who worshipped on Saturdays and could not therefore be said to deserve the punishment.

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