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March 24, 2010
Tonga grapples with forces of man and nature

Tonga, a remote chain of 176 lush islands spread over 500 miles of the Pacific Ocean, faces potentially devastating effects from climate change.  Some studies suggest that sea levels may rise by up to 6 feet by the end of the century — a catastrophe for many low-lying islands.

As part of her series on small islands and climate change, Worldfocus producer Megan Thompson visited Tonga and documented the government’s campaign to get the word out about the issue — both at home and abroad. The trip was sponsored by the U.N. Environmental Program and coordinated by the Alliance of Small Island States.




There has been no net rise in sea level in the South Pacific. What you are seeing is erosion. Erosion has always taken place and atolls/low lying islands are always sinking. It is their very nature to do so.

Cyclones are not getting stronger.


I am the director of a charitable organization in Tonga. We can see how the water rises every year on the island we live on, washing more of the sand away. However there should be a study done on preventing such erosion by in some places raising the reefs with coral rock cemented in or cement blocks. This could be far more cost effective than trying to rebuild a beach. How well reefs protect islands can easily be seen here. We are protected by a big reef. The tsunami a few months ago was less than a meter on our side of the island. On the other side that is not protected, the tsunami was over 3 meters.The danger is also not just from the oceans rising, but the cyclones getting stronger because of global warming, with higher tidal surges, that could wipe out islands long before the rising sea level. Best wishes to you.

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