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Fiji Time: 8:41 PM on Thursday 24 April

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Sea level up by 20cm

Priya Chand
Saturday, December 15, 2012

GLOBAL sea level has risen with particularly high rates in the Western Pacific over the last 20 years.

This was revealed during the Fiji Climate Change Workshop in Suva on Thursday.

A senior lecturer of the University of New South Wales, Alex Sen Gupta, said with global warming, a gradual sea level rise was expected but over the past years, global sea level had increased by 20cm.

"But if you look at the last few years and you look at the Western Pacific, the sea level has risen much faster than the average, four to five times faster," he said.

Although global warming is a reason for sea level rise, Mr Gupta said natural oscillation was another reason for sea level to go up and down.

"During El Nino, which lasts for nearly a year, you'd expect the sea level to go down in the Western Pacific," he said. "During La Nina, you would expect it to go up."

Responding to the issue of the prediction of some Pacific islands going under water in many years to come, Mr Gupta said that was why countries and local governments needed to put up protection plans to counter these threats.

"So when we talk about an island going under, it's not 'literally' an island going under," he said.

"What it means is that as the sea level goes up, the flooding events gets worse.

"And that means that more salty water goes in the land and into the crops, and eventually to a stage where it is not sustainable anymore."

Thus, he said it was very important for Fiji and all tropical islands to make strong statements about what needs to be done and keep pushing the world to come to some agreement about how mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

"I think the voice of the Pacific island is very strong.

"I think people listen to what they're saying because the threat is so high to the islands and the effect could be so bad. So people do take notice when island representatives go to the big meetings and raise their voices and issues."