Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Rising Sea Levels or Just Sinking Islands

Our national broadcaster, the ABC, has struck again with a new low in responsible journalism.
In 'PNG - That Sinking Feeling', broadcast last night as part of the 'Foreign Correspondent' program, reporter Steve Marshall has trashed any credibility the ABC had left on environmental reporting. The unambiguous message in the documentary and all the introductory material was that here was firm "evidence" of rising sea levels producing climate refugees.

The most powerful scene was of one islander and the reporter standing waist deep in water where the islanders father had once had his veggie patch. The implication being that sea levels had risen by close to two metres over recent decades. The only problem with this is that the Carteret Islands are only a short distance from Bougainville where no such sea level rise has been reported. Moreover, the area is only 500km from some very serious recent volcanic activity at Rabaul and form part of an active volcanic chain through the Solomon Islands. The Islanders appear to have been convinced that they are the victims of rising sea levels and global warming, no doubt from a procession of publicly funded planet ponces.

But if Marshall and the program managers at 'Foreign Correspondent' had been able to deal with more than one variable at a time they would have drawn the inescapable conclusion that the islands are sinking. Instead they appear to have manufactured a piece of green propaganda that neatly dovetails with Al Gore's thoroughly discredited claim that Pacific Islanders are already being displaced by rising sea levels?

What I find most offensive is the way a group of islanders who are confronted by a serious problem appear to have been exploited.

If the ABC can get something this simple completely wrong, then what does that tell us about the veracity of their reporting on much more complex issues elsewhere?

This is what Wikipedia has to say .

"It has also been suggested that the movement of tectonic plates could be responsible. The islands lie in one of the most complex tectonic areas of the earth. They sit next to a plate convergence zone at the boundary of the Pacific Plate, Indo-Australian Plate, and South Bismark Plate on a subduction zone next to the New Hebrides Trench (Bougainville Trench), where the earth's crust is disappearing. There is an active volcano on Bougainville Island, 86km away.

It should be noted, that the Carteret islands are built entirely on a base of coral that sits atop of an extinct volcanic mount. In the usual course of events, such islands eventually subside simply due to the underlying volcanic rock being worn away and not replenished. The Carteret islands are a classic example of such coral islands in their final stage of existence. Interestingly, Charles Darwin was the first to propose such a system of creation and submergence". See

It is also quite informative to simply google "Carteret Islands" where the range of reporting angles and biases are plain to see.

The ABC had been there before reporting that the same story was taking place on Takuu (or Mortlock) Islands, the home of "a Samoan-American woman, known locally as 'Queen' Emma Coe, bought the island for four axes and 4.5 kg of tobacco. Under Imperial German protection, she had all the trees chopped down and replaced with coconuts, and she imported Papua New Guineans from New Ireland to work the plantations".

The fact that this is occuring in two places would tend to suggest that the dynamiting of coral explanation at Wikipedia is less credible. But the really interesting issue to arise out of this is the question of how many other pacific atolls are actually subsiding for the same reasons put forward by Charles Darwin but collectively being misreported as rising sea levels?

It also appears that the program was also screened on ITV, with the first report in the Sydney Morning Herald on March 30 2002. Other conspicuous turkeys feeding on this bit of journalistic offal include newswire, the Ebono Institute (with two articles), Science & Nature, some sort of Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert with his own photos, while The Independent Online was in there boots and all with a similar story in the indian ocean.

But it seems the ABC just can't get enough of it with Lateline on 5/02/2007

Transcript TONY JONES: "The reality of global warming now appears to be accepted by the vast majority of international scientists. This weekend’s report from an international governmental panel on climate change painted a grim picture for thousands of Pacific islanders, a warning that the sea levels could rise dramatically over the next century. And on Papua New Guinea's Carteret Islands it's already happening. The entire population is preparing to leave their homeland, forced out by the rising sea. Lateline's John Stewart has this exclusive report".

The same "exclusive" story was run on Life Matters on 1 November 2006 and the list goes on and on. Clearly, Climate Central has called for "evidence" of rising sea levels and the Climate Cadres have gone right out there and manufactured it.

Ian Mott

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