Leading article: Tuvalu sounds the alarm

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The Independent Online

The people of Tuvalu are on the front line of climate change, and their heroic efforts to stave off the effects can only be applauded. They are confronting a rise in the sea level that is even faster than envisaged. With it, come ever higher tides and more extensive flooding. One of the seven islands was lost after a series of cyclones in the Nineties. Within a century, the remaining six could also be submerged.

Facing mostly indifference from the rest of the world, the islanders have responded in different ways. Some are leaving, despairing of the future. Others have left in the hope of drumming up concern in the rich world. Many, though, are staying, determined that if the rich world will not help, they will do their utmost to help themselves.

They are making efforts to reduce their own tiny carbon emissions. They are developing bio-gas, switching to more resilient crops, trying to restrict their water usage and building new houses on stilts. A national adaptation plan is currently being assessed.

With outside help, there are some practical things that could be done in the short term. Sea-walls, for instance, could be built, or sand shifted from the lagoon to raise the level of the land. But these are not the sort of projects that the islanders could undertake alone.

In the longer term, of course, the key lies in the developed world cutting its carbon emissions. If the outside world cannot summon up the will to save these South Pacific islands, their plight should at least serve as a warning. Where Tuvalu goes today, many other low-lying regions will go tomorrow - unless we take the concerted action we know is needed.

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