February 25, 2004 | Graham

Tuvalu – Polynesian for “Crying Wolf”

There used to be a lot more point breaks for surfing on the Gold Coast than there are now.
When I grew up as a kid listening to storms belt against the unsealed tin roof on the front verandah of our holiday shack at Currumbin we worried that the house could fall into the sea. It had come close in 1956. Dad had a photo of the erosion escarpment two feet in front of our front steps. He was standing at the base of it with a 16’ ply-wood surf-ski standing vertically beside him. It did not reach the top.
In the ’60s I remember the front of the shops on Pacific Parade on the patrolled beach just a little further north from us being sand-bagged to stop the sea which was crashing across the road from breaking their display windows.
When we eventually sold our holiday house and looked for something a little cheaper and a little further south we were turned off some beach front property on the Bilongil Spit at Byron Bay for the reason that back in the ’70s it hadn’t been beachfront at all, but one block back. You could still seem some of the stumps of the houses that the sea had eaten before it left the new high-tide mark.
This last Christmas the beach is back stretching further out than ever. Certainly further than my father can ever remember and that goes back to his first times at the coast in the ’20s. This is partly a result of the new Tweed River sand bypass, but mostly a consequence of South-East Queensland experiencing no cyclones of note since 1974.
Tuvalu in the South Pacific has just recently experienced flooding as a result of high tides. According to the CIA World Factbook it is a string of coral atolls which is 0.1 times the size of Washington DC (for those of you in the habit of measuring things this way). It has a maximum elevation of 5 metres above sea level. The main income of its 11,305 inhabitants appears to be $50 M in royalties which it will recover in the five years to 2005 from leasing its internet extension “.tv” It would have to be because it apparently has no potable water and no arable land. Because there is so little money its one bank closes at 1:00 p.m. every day.
For years scientists and the government of Tuvalu have been warning that greenhouse warming and consequent rises in sea levels would cause Tuvalu to disappear, and so it might. As a result, in a South Pacific variation of the opportunistic alarmism noted in my last post, every time there is flooding, the government of Tuvalu and various scientists all scream out for something to be done globally. Take a look at this article from the ABC NewsOnline as an example.
The problem with this theory is that the atolls on which Tuvalu is situated may well be sinking. As the ABC article says “…scientists and politicians are divided over whether the Polynesian atoll nation that lies some 3,400 kilometres north-east of Australia, is sinking or whether the sea is rising”. It claims “The jury is still out”.
Nonsense. Any scientist who claims that the current problems in Tuvalu (as distinct from possible future ones) are caused by sea level rises isn’t a scientist, they are a propagandist. Any journalist reporting these claims anything but critically has abandoned their professional duty to inquire after the facts. How can I be so sure of this? First, we know that the islands are an unstable formation because one of them – Tepukasavalivili – sank in 1997. According to government meteorologist Hilian Vavae “You can look down into the water and see the outline of the island.”
Second, the tide height readings at the Brisbane pile light are stable. They seem to be pretty stable everywhere else in the world, and may even be in Tuvalu because they have only been measuring the tides there for 10 years! For the same reason that water doesn’t run up hill, global warming can’t discriminately raise sea levels just in one part of the world.
Greenhouse advocates do the cause no good when they lend themselves to such spurious nonsense. In fact they make more of us even more likely than ever to discard the theory. If they keep up like this, it will take a minor miracle, like all the point breaks coming back on the Gold Coast and the sea crashing into the hills behind Flat Rock creek before most Australians will believe that Greenhouse has anything to do with them.

Posted by Graham at 11:26 am | Comments Off on Tuvalu – Polynesian for “Crying Wolf” |
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