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Kiribati sinking “like Titanic” but 59 million times slower

Kiribati, with a natural resource base of almost nothing, makes 15% of its nominal GDP, via donations from the Australian government. Periodically Mr Anote Tong, president of Kiribati,visits Australia to remind us how much they need help money.

Creatively, this year, Mr Tong is comparing Kiribati’s future to the sinking of the Titanic.

Give the man points for theatrix:

“We are the people who will be swimming,” he said.   “The question will be — will those people on the lifeboats bother to pull us in or push us away because we would be too problematic?”

Kiribati’s highest point is 13m above water, and is sinking at a rate of 1mm a year (see the updated graph below by Eyes On Browne). To rephrase Euan Mearns, at this rate, complete inundation of it will take 13,000 years.

The Titanic’s elevation (waterline to the deck) was 18m, so it was 50% higher, yet it sank in 2 hours 40 minutes. That’s one ninth of a day, or one 3,285th of a year. Conservatively, the comparative speed works out to be 42.7 million times faster. Allowing for the higher elevation (but discounting funnels and/or palms) that would be 59.1 million times faster.


For some reason the ABC was unable to do an internet search on the words “Kiribati, Tide Gauges, Sea Level”.  With a billion dollars to spend, apparently they can only afford a one way internet cable. Just enough to upload news stories like this which are essentially a repeat of a press release, unchecked from President Tong:

Kiribati…is already suffering from the effects of climate change.

Rising sea levels are causing land to be engulfed by tidal waters, driving people away from their homes and leaving them displaced.

“What I have seen in my lifetime over the years has been villages, communities, who have had to leave … because it is no longer viable,” he said.

“The sea is there and there is nothing. Everything has been taken away so they have had to relocate.”

No matter how melodramatic the claim, there are no hard questions from journalist Sarah Hancock.

Good luck to Mr Tong. He is just playing the cards he is offered.

Pity the ABC though. I wouldn’t want to be them when Australians realize that they are paying for an internet rerouting service from socialist troughers, freeloading gravy hunters and pagan czars.

 BACKGROUND on Sea Levels

According to 1000 tide gauges, globally, sea levels are rising slowly at around 1mm a year. The rise started long before human CO2 output increased, and there is no sign of acceleration with rapidly increasing human emissions of CO2. Careful analysis of 60 beaches in Northern Europe to find one of the most stable gauges in the world agrees.  The Topex/Poseidon satellite sea-level data set also showed similar rates until they were adjusted up to fit climate models (or one sinking gauge in Hong Kong). Likewise the Envisat sea-level satellite data was also adjusted up. Vincent Gray graphed sea level around many South Pacific Islands. There is no CO2 induced disaster.

h/t David B


PSMLS: Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level

South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project [Bureau of Meteorology]

Michael Beenstock, Daniel Felsenstein,*Eyal Frank & Yaniv Reingewertz, (2014)  Tide gauge location and the measurement of global sea level rise,  Environmental and Ecological Statistics, May 2014

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