Tuvalu PM refutes AUT research

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Tuvalu PM refutes AUT research

Update: 5:26PM THE Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, says the recently-released University of Auckland research pointing to an increase in his country?s land mass is flawed.

Enele Sopoaga told Fijian media at a press conference in Suva this afternoon that Tuvalu was not expanding and said the University of Auckland research released by New Zealand media two days ago was flawed and risky.

Mr Sopoaga rejected the research by the university’s coastal geomorphologists, Professor Paul S. Kench, Dr Murray R. Ford and Dr Susan D. Owen, which was largely based on 40 years worth of imagery of the Tuvaluan shoreline.

The PM said the expansion of Tuvaluan shoreline did not equate to habitable land for the people of the ‘sinking’ country.

Entitled ‘Patterns of island change and persistence offer alternate adaptation pathways for atoll nations’, the research paper was submitted to the university in July 2017 and approved on January 9, published online on February 9.

“Results highlight a net increase in land area in Tuvalu of 73.5ha (2.9 per cent), despite sea-level rise, and land area increase in eight of nine atolls,” the research abstract explains.

“Results challenge perceptions of island loss, showing islands are dynamic features that will persist as sites for habitation over the next century, presenting alternate opportunities for adaptation that embrace the heterogeneity of island types and their dynamics.”

PM Sopoaga said the report and the release of its findings were “rather unfortunate”.

“As the leader of the Tuvalu, about which most of the report has paid most of its focus, I find it totally unfortunate and perhaps untimely in that the news item was never allowed responding or verifying by Tuvalu authorities,” the PM said.

“It was simply put for public consumption without proper verification. I strongly feel this is irresponsible reporting and irresponsible disclosure of information which should have been properly verified.”

The PM said the report should have been contextualised with features of climate change effects such as saltwater intrusion.

Alluding to mischievous agenda, Mr Sopoaga said neither the researchers nor the University of Auckland had sourced the partnership of Tuvaluan scientists or government and he questioned why the scientists had not brought the research to light at COP23 in Germany last November.

“We should have been given the chance so that our scientists, our experts on climate change and on the movement of atoll islands be given the opportunity to atleast look at the report and comment,” Mr Sopoaga said.

The Tuvaluan government will respond to the report and also upload an alternative viewpoint to the Talanoa Dialogue Portal, which was set up by UN Climate Change (UNFCCC) in late January. 

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