The Pacific islands and the rising sea level

Published 21 January 2014 in:

Photo: Catarina Axelsson/MFA

Last week I went on one of my trips to countries where I am also accredited, this time to the Republic of Palau and to Yap, which is one of the four states in the Federated States of Micronesia. I met and had discussions with, among others, the president and the minister of foreign affairs of Palau and the governor, the deputy governor and the speaker of Yap. All of them expressed their great concern when it came to the rising sea level, caused by the melting ices in our part of the world, not least in Greenland. There are already noticeable and frightening differences compared to just a few decades ago. Already crops have been destroyed by the current sea level rise and prosepcts are very grim for some of the outer islands around Palau and Yap. They will simply disappear, leading to the necessity for the inhabitants there to find new places to live. The islands are small and the populations on them not large either, but this should not stop us from seeing the coming catastrophies and do what we can to slow down the ongoing climate change.

The leaders of the Pacific islands are hoping that tourism will help their future economies, and rightly so, but they are at the same time very cautious when it comes to possible over-exploitation. The islands and their cultures are fragile and if there would be a mass development of tourism much of their traditions and cultures would also disappear. But they have a lot to offer. The waters around them are still rich in fish resources and for divers they provide extremely interesting sites to explore, just to mention one aspect.