Introducing Senator Canute

Image source: Sydney Morning Herald

Some time ago, I blogged about the plight of low-lying Pacific islands like Tuvalu and the ultimate economic cost of global warming; namely, an economy disappearing off the face of the earth. Astonishingly, it was reported in the The Australian yesterday that this is really no big deal, at least not according to Australian Federal Government which claims their is no “imminent danger”. Senator ‘King Canute’ Campbell has declared it “absurd” to suggest that Australia should accept environmental refugees, while a spokesman for the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, stated that sea level rise was a “long-term issue and it is too early to provide an accurate assessment of regional trends”. The sad truth of the matter is that while Kyoto Protocol signatory New Zealand has already agreed to accept any displaced people, Australia has now knocked back two requests from the Tuvalu Government to take in those displaced by rising sea levels. The likes of Senator Campbell may prefer to put this on the ‘back burner’, but it is a very real here-and-now problem. Late last year a UN study revealed that there could be as many as 50 million environmental refugees around the world by the end of the decade. Not all of these refugees will be a result of rising sea levels, of course, but the same study estimates that as many as 100 million people live in areas that are below sea level or liable to storm surge. As this Earthwatch Radio podcast [2 mins] points out, this is a creeping a problem that doesn’t the get the same ‘air-play’ as the problem of environmental refugees created by tsunamis and hurricanes yet, potentially, it is far more catastrophic.