Monday, November 10, 2008

The Maldives and political scaremongering

The newly elected president of the Maldives (a group of over a thousand coral atolls in the Indian Ocean) has come out with an interesting plan in case global warming should cause sea levels to rise and inundate his nation.

That is what many climate change scientists believe will happen because of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). But I would suggest that they've got it all wrong.

Coral atolls, for as long as they are living organisms, keep pace with sea level changes. If my memory serves me correctly, I learned in school that Darwin observed that atolls appear to keep pace with subsidence, maintaining their elevation. This observation was further supported by drilling into atolls to find shallow water corals formed the bulk of the structure for thousands of feet below present day sea level.

The fact that the present day Maldives are so close to sea level supports the observations made by many eminent geographers and geologists.

Corals thrive in environments like the Maldives - open ocean bringing food, clear water to allow copious light to penetrate deep on the flanks of the reefs, occasional storms to re-distribute the coral as sand, vegetation to bind the sand and so on. A coral island is a unique ecosystem that appears to be able to survive almost anything, even ice ages!

So why do the Maldivians feel so threatened? Well, the islands have been selected as a test case for the global warming lobby. Surely if anything will sway public opinion it is a small island nation losing its birthright to the greed to man made carbon dioxide emissions?

So let's look at this a bit more closely. Global sea level changes are not constant. Some coastlines are emerging at the present time, others are sinking. The net balance seems to be reasonably constant. But "the ice caps are melting", says the AGW lobby. However, predictions of global sea level rises don't appear to be following their observations. The evidence provided is always very selective. My own photographs of East Greenland have been used to prove that the ice cap is shrinking by comparing those I took in August with those taken by others at the beginning of summer.

If the Maldives are going to disappear in the near future, my suggestion is that it will probably be due to man-made interference with the ecosystem based on coral and coralgal framework organisms - take away the bricks and the walls will come tumbling down. While the Maldives government has absolutely no control over climate change, it does have a responsibility to maintain its own natural sea defenses. The temptation to develop tourism will always be great (heck, I would love to go there!) but this has to be done carefully. Allow the corals to maintain the fabric of the islands and sea level changes will have much less impact on Maldivian society and its future.