Global warming sinks islands

TWO PACIFIC islands have sunk beneath the waves, the first victims of the rising seas brought about by global warming, writes Geoffrey Lean. And others are on the verge of disappearing, too.

The news - revealed to the Independent on Sunday by the official environmental body of the governments of the South Pacific - suggests that disaster is striking the low-lying island nations even sooner than expected. Scientists have long predicted that the coral atolls of the world's oceans would steadily disappear as the seas rose: few expected it to start happening so soon.

The development comes as international negotiations to agree on specific measures to cut emissions of pollutants broke up without agreement in Bonn last week.

The islands, Tebua Tarawa and Abanuea (the latter ironically known to locals as "the beach which is long lasting"), are both in Kiribati, a nation of atolls strung out over two million square miles of the Pacific. Neither was inhabited, but Tebua Tarawa had long been used by fishermen.