Some low-lying island nations face the “end of history” due to rising sea levels unless the world takes stronger action to slow global warming, a spokesman said at U.N. climate talks on Monday.
Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands and the Maldives were most at risk, said Antonio Monteiro Lima, a delegate of Cape Verde who is vice-chair of the 43-member Alliance of Small Island States.
“All these countries are at this moment struggling to survive … they are facing the end of history,” he told a news conference on the opening day of November 29 to December 10 negotiations among almost 200 nations on slowing global warming.
Island states say that storm surges are eroding beaches, blowing salt water onto farmland and contaminating fresh water supplies. In the longer term, they fear that rises in sea levels will wash them off the map.
AOSIS reiterated demands that the Cancun talks should work out a legally binding treaty by the end of 2011 to limit any temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.
That target is far tougher than a 2C ceiling set by most other nations in a non-binding Copenhagen Accord agreed at a 2009 summit. Goals for Cancun are modest, including setting up a new “green fund” to aid poor nations.
“We have clear scientific evidence, from sea level rise through desertification, of the impact on small, vulnerable countries,” said Dessima Williams of Grenada, who chairs AOSIS at the talks.
She said AOSIS would on December 8 announce details of a deal to promote low-carbon economic growth for 17 small island states, backed by a group of developed nations as part of “fast-start” aid for the poor meant to total $30 billion from 2017-21.
The U.N. panel of climate scientists said in a 2007 report that seas were likely to rise between 18 and 59 cms (7-24 inches) this century, before accounting for the possibility of a change in the melt rates or Greenland and Antarctica.
Seas rose by about 17 cms in the 20th century, a trend the panel blamed on emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels.