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Rising seas force Carteret Islanders out of h -

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Rising seas force Carteret Islanders out of home

Broadcast: 05/02/2007

Reporter: John Stewart

Residents on Papua New Guinea's Carteret Islands are already feeling the affects of climate change
and global warming. The entire population is preparing to leave their homeland, forced out by the
rising sea.


TONY JONES: The reality of global warming now appears to be accepted by the vast majority of
international scientists. This weekend's report from an international governmental panel on climate
change painted a grim picture for thousands of Pacific islanders, a warning that the sea levels
could rise dramatically over the next century. And on Papua New Guinea's Carteret Islands it's
already happening. The entire population is preparing to leave their homeland, forced out by the
rising sea. Lateline's John Stewart has this exclusive report.

JOHN STEWART: It looks like a tropical paradise but, for the people of the Carteret Islands, their
home for thousands of years may soon be gone. The sea is literally eating away their home. Along
the beaches, trees lie uprooted. In the distance, tree trunks mark where the shoreline used to be.
The older Carteret Islanders have seen enormous change in their lifetime.

JACOB TSOMI, CHIEF OF THE DOG CLAN (TRANSLATION): Now the sea is eating the island away. You can
see the fallen coconut trunks. The sea is eating away the land very quickly. The islands are
growing smaller and smaller.

JOHN STEWART: The Carterets are a group of small islands 120 kilometres north east of Papua New
Guinea's Bougainville province. About 1,500 people live here, and in a few months they'll be among
the world's first environmental refugees, as families start moving to Bougainville.

JOHN SALIK, RESIDENT: I think the best solution is to relocate the people to some place else, maybe
in the mainland.

JOHN STEWART: Much of the local farmland has been destroyed by salt. Some children are malnourished
and will have to leave the islands to improve their diet.

BERNARD GALLE, RESIDENT: This is what we regarded as soil area. We planted bananas, taro, even
tapioca, but, just last month, when we had this high tide, it swept the whole area.

JOHN STEWART: Pip Stars is a climate change activist and filmmaker. Last year he travelled to the
Carterets and filmed these images.

PIP STARR, CLIMATE CHANGE ACTIVIST: Most people accept the relocation as inevitable. The older
people that I spoke to are hoping they can live their years out there, the younger people are
fairly keen to go, because, you know, they don't have enough to eat. So they're keen to actually
move somewhere else and learn a new life, which they'll have to do again, something which will be
difficult for the old people, because they'll have to learn how to become farmers rather than
fishermen. So, it's a big change for them.

JOHN STEWART: Scientists, like the CSIRO's Dr John Hunter, say that rising sea levels are one of a
number of problems for the Carterets. Tectonic plate movements and the destruction of the local
reef by fishermen may also be causing the islands to sink. But rising sea levels remain a key
factor. During the past century, sea levels rose by between 10 and 20 centimetres. Scientists say
that sea-rise over the next 20 years could be far worse

DR JOHN HUNTER, UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA: Most agree that it's probably between 60 centimetres and 80
centimetres but with the extra caveat that there's certain things we don't understand very well
about the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and we could have a significant increase over those

JOHN STEWART: Rising sea levels are also expected to have a major impact on the Pacific islands of
Tuvalu and Kiribati. Some of the Carteret Islanders are angry about being the first to have to
relocate and are hoping that someone will build a giant sea wall to protect their home.

BERNARD GALLE: We still believe that industrial countries can still help us.

JOHN STEWART: But most people living on this remote group of islands accept they will have to
leave. The ocean which once sustained them for centuries has sealed their fate. John Stewart,