Yahoo News Repeats the False Claim Tuvalu Is Sinking Beneath Rising Seas, Data Show It Is Growing

In an interview, Seve Paeniu, the finance minister of the island nation of Tuvalu, tells Yahoo News his country is sinking beneath rising seas as a result of climate change. Hard data gathered for multiple studies, shows this claim is false. Tuvalu has been growing, both in size and population, as the earth has modestly warmed.

In the Yahoo News story, titled “‘Tuvalu is sinking:’ Island nation threatened by sea level rise looks for salvation,” Paeniu explains to Yahoo News senior editor David Knowles that Tuvalu came to COP-26 requesting developed countries give it money to help it take actions to stave off its climate change induced disappearance.

“Tuvalu is sinking, Finance Minister Seve Paeniu proclaims of his island nation as he sits down for an interview with Yahoo News at the U.N. Climate Change Conference.

“We are now living the climate change in Tuvalu, we are seeing land fast disappearing,” says Paeniu, who emits an intensity with his bald head and piercing stare.

“That’s why we are here at COP26,” he says of the climate conference, “to tell our story to the world. The world needs to take action now, not to defer it to later years.”

Paeniu, 56, has seen firsthand how rising seas have begun eating away at his homeland.

In the interview, Paeniu also claims Tuvalu is threatened by more powerful tropical storms.

Contrary to the Paeniu’s and Yahoo News’ assertions, the IPCC’s recent 6th Assessment Report (AR6) does not indicate climate change has caused hurricanes to increase in number or intensity.

“There is low confidence in most reported long-term (multidecadal to centennial) trends in TC [tropical cyclone] frequency- or intensity-based metrics,” concluded the IPCC in AR6.

Also, research consistently shows Tuvalu’s land mass is growing, not sinking beneath the waves.

As early as 2010, research showed the small island nations of Tuvalu and Kiribati were growing, rather than being submerged beneath rising seas. As discussed by the BBC, one study examined 27 islands spanning Tuvalu, Kiribati, and the Federated States of Micronesia, and found that over the last 60 years, 80 percent of the islands either maintained their size or grew, with some growing dramatically.

The 2010 scientific findings were confirmed and expanded upon in 2015 when the same group of researchers published a peer-reviewed study of 600 coral reef islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The researchers found approximately 40 percent of those islands remained stable, and 40 percent grew in size.

As National Geographic reported, “Some islands grew by as much as 14 acres (5.6 hectares) in a single decade, and Tuvalu’s main atoll, Funafuti—33 islands distributed around the rim of a large lagoon—has gained 75 acres (32 hectares) of land during the past 115 years.”

More recent research published in 2018 in the peer reviewed journal GIScience & Remote Sensing found 15 of the 28 uninhabited islands on Tuvalu’s Funafuti Atoll saw their shorelines increase in recent years.

A number of peer reviewed studies published in recent years, herehere, and here, for instance, discuss the processes that are allowing – and that should continue to allow – Tuvalu and Pacific islands to stay ahead of rising seas.

As a result, despite political stunts like Tuvalu’s foreign minister standing knee deep in the sea while recording a speech to be delivered at COP-26, designed to induce climate “reparations” from Western democracies, Tuvalu’s government feels confident enough in its long-term future that it is building brand new government buildings.

In fact, Tuvalu is experiencing net immigration rather than net emigration. There are 20 percent more people living in Tuvalu now than 30 years ago. Tuvalu’s population has doubled since 1970. Also, the population on Fongafale, Tuvalu’s largest island, has increased by 33 percent.

The baseless claims of “sinking islands” was conclusively refuted by a very recent study that performed a  global-scale analysis of 221 islands in the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans. The study reveals “a predominantly stable or accretionary trend in the area of atoll islands worldwide” throughout the 21st century. The Maldives islands alone expanded by 37.5 square kilometers (km²) from 2000 to 2017. Tokelau and Tuvalu, both small landmasses (9.65 km² and 25.14 km² respectively), both increased their landmass by approximately seven percent.

Before corporate media outlets, like Yahoo News, publish stories hyping claims that paradisiacal islands are being swamped by rising seas due to climate change, they should check the facts. The data say the landmass of these islands and their populations are growing.

If developed countries wish to give the government of Tuvalu welfare or development aid, that’s their business. But any such aid should not be premised on the demonstrably false claim that climate change induced sea level rise, caused by industrialized nations’ use of fossil fuels, is causing Tuvalu and other island nations to be swallowed by rapidly rising seas. The data conclusively says they aren’t.

H. Sterling Burnett
H. Sterling Burnett
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is the Director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News. In addition to directing The Heartland Institute's Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy, Burett puts Environment & Climate News together, is the editor of Heartland's Climate Change Weekly email, and the host of the Environment & Climate News Podcast.

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  1. Congratulations on revealing the researched facts!

    Is it possible that because of Covid travel restrictions the world leaders and participants at the Scotland Summit (COP26) at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021, are unaware that the Foreign Ministers of Fiji, Palau, and Tuvalu are sprouting baseless and misleading “facts”?

    One can’t help wondering are the climate change participants out of touch, or simply blinded by their own perceptions? Surely, there are going to be some red faces when your information is made public, as it will eventually.

    To quote Winston Churchill:

    “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

    Jennifer de Lasala

  2. The H. Sterling Burnett quote that “the IPCC’s recent 6th Assessment Report (AR6) does not indicate climate change has caused hurricanes to increase in number or intensity” is wrong. The text says:

    “There is high confidence that anthropogenic climate change contributed to extreme rainfall amounts during Hurricane Harvey (2017) and other intense tropical cyclones.”

    “There is general agreement in the literature that anthropogenic greenhouse gases and aerosols have measurably affected observed oceanic and atmospheric variability in TC-prone regions (see Chapter 3). This underpinned the SROCC assessment of medium confidence that humans have contributed to the observed increase in Atlantic hurricane activity since the 1970s”

  3. What’s in it for you Mike? Do more research rather than rely on these alarmists that are in it for nefarity and cash!


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