MAJURO: Officials from Pacific island countries expected to be among the earliest victims of climate change will meet next week to devise a negotiating strategy for a crucial Copenhagen conference.
The officials will meet in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, a nation where islands average less than one metre (three feet) above sea level and are among the most vulnerable in the world to rising sea levels caused by global warming.
More than a dozen Pacific Island countries will be plotting their strategy for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December in Copenhagen, which will attempt to hammer out an international deal to combat warming.
Espen Ronneberg, the climate change advisor to the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), said Thursday that Pacific countries would be gathering new information on the impact of global warming in the region to devise a negotiating strategy.
"We are in need of strong binding commitments to reduce emissions and to support adaptation to impacts (of climate change)," Ronneberg said of the Copenhagen conference.
"We are going to be among the first casualties of climate change," added Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Authority acting board chairman Ben Chutaro.
Mark Lander, a meteorologist with the University of Guam’s Water and Environmental Research Institute, told officials in Majuro this week that the rise of sea levels in Micronesia this decade had been three times the world average.
"Globally, the average is about three millimetres per year increase in sea level, said Lander.
"In Micronesia, we’re seeing 10 millimetres per year. This is extreme sea level rise and far exceeds the global average."
This is believed to be partly due to the impact of the La Nina weather pattern in the years since 2000, when the sea in the eastern Pacific cools, changing weather patterns and sea levels.