At WUWT the ever-practical Willis Eschenbach refuses to bet on the long-term success of a New Zealand-funded development project to entirely convert the power supply in Tokelau to solar panels and coconut oil and explains exactly why he won’t.
I mention this story for the benefit of the many people in New Zealand and overseas who continue to consider coral islands at risk from DAGW*-driven sea level rise.
But at the same time Willis has pertinent lessons for Kiwi policy wonks who love renewable energy to bits and are working steadily to destroy our ability to do without the other reliable kind even when it’s much safer especially when we’re poor for us to have it than to lose it, Kiwi foreign policy wonks who need a kick up the backside for dropping a project on Tokelau and having the temerity to call it an aid project, and all those happy environmentalists who wouldn’t know the difference between food and energy (oh, food is energy?) who see no problem in burning poor people’s food in their engines instead of letting them eat it.
This is the nugget of information that grabbed my attention: in just a few sentences Willis paints a picture both of the dynamic nature of these lonely little coral atolls at the mercy of the great oceanic storms and of the atolls’ unique durability. The characteristics of their formation make it almost impossible to destroy them.
Though their instability seems all too fragile, their survival consists in their very mobility. Remember their true size: the width of the lagoon (often several miles), not the individual islands. They are the flat top of a mountain – that’s why the ocean does not sweep them away.
Willis says these interesting things in describing the Tokelau atoll:
Like many atolls, it is in the form of a ring, with the widest and solidest individual islands on the windward side of the atoll. A coral atoll is not a solid thing. It is a hesitation in a storm-driven river of coral sand and rubble. As a result, on the side where the storms hit, the river of coral rubble is larger, and the islands are longer and more connected. Typically, none of the individual islands rise more than a few metres above sea level.
Here’s an open invitation to all Pacific Islands affairs reporters to examine their understanding of the threat posed by rising sea levels: how did the atolls survive the transition from the last Ice Age, when the sea level was 130 metres lower than it is now? You can be sure that they’ll cope easily with a sea-level rise of just 1.8 mm per year, which has been fairly continuous for about 6000 years and isn’t accelerating.
Willis is always worth reading, so I urge you to check out the original article and see all the other interesting things he says, such as why on earth New Zealand told them to burn their food.
* dangerous anthropogenic global warming