Arrow-right Camera


Island Nations Fear Drowning 39 Ask Industrialized Countries To Help Reduce Global Warming

Tue., Feb. 11, 1997

For the tiny Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, global warming is a matter of survival: if the rising temperature raises sea level by 2 feet over the next century, as many predict, 80 percent of the island will be underwater.

In equally tiny Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean, with fewer than 100,000 residents in all, officials are convinced global warming is behind a surge in hurricanes in recent years, including a 1994 storm that wiped out virtually the entire economy.

For those and similar reasons, representatives of the 39 member nations of the Alliance of Small Island States were in Boston on Monday to kick off a David-andGoliath campaign to stop global warming, which many scientists believe is a major reason that sea level is rising.

The island nations are prodding industrialized countries to cut emissions of gases linked to global warming by nearly 30 percent by 2005. That would require big changes in U.S. energy generation and transportation, but officials of the island alliance say it is the only way to save them from destruction.

“Is it fair for the island states to go under because there’s no will to stop the waste and emissions from the industrial world?” asked Espen Ronneberg, the Marshall Islands’ delegate to the United Nations, speaking at the New England Aquarium.

The ambassadors’ visit, organized by the environmental group Ozone Action, comes as most of the world is preparing for a meeting in Bonn, Germany, next month at which the Clinton administration is expected to propose mandatory reductions in emissions of so-called “greenhouse gases,” mainly carbon dioxide.

But the president is under intense pressure from the oil and coal industries to minimize the cuts.

“It’s almost a conspiracy on the part of those who sell the petroleum to continue to do as little as they possibly can,” said Lionel Hurst, the ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda.

Both Hurst and Ronneberg said industrialized countries need to recognize how their coal- and oil-burning practices are harming the small islands, calling themselves “canaries in the coal mine” for the rest of the world.

Click here to comment on this story »