Sea levels in the South-West Pacific are rising faster than the global average, posing a threat to low-lying islands and causing damage to marine ecosystems, according to a report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The report, titled “State of the Climate in the South-West Pacific 2022,” revealed that water levels in some areas were rising at a rate of about 4 mm per year, slightly higher than the global mean rate. This could lead to the flooding and destruction of agricultural and habitable lands in low-lying territories such as Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands, with residents unable to relocate to higher elevations.

The report also highlighted the occurrence of marine heatwaves in a large area northeast of Australia and south of Papua New Guinea over a period of six months, which had a detrimental impact on marine life and the livelihoods of local communities. WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas warned that the return of El Niño, a warming of water surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean, would further exacerbate the situation in the South-West Pacific region. El Niño is associated with higher temperatures, disruptive weather patterns, and more marine heatwaves and coral bleaching.

The report further stated that the South-West Pacific region experienced 35 natural hazards last year, including floods and storms, which resulted in the deaths of over 700 people. These hazards directly affected more than 8 million individuals. While the number of reported weather-related disaster events decreased compared to the previous year, the economic losses due to flooding and weather events increased. Flood damage alone amounted to $8.5 billion, nearly triple the previous year’s losses.

The findings of the report highlight the urgent need for action to address the rising sea levels and their impact on vulnerable communities in the South-West Pacific. Failure to take prompt measures could result in irreversible damage to the environment and livelihoods of millions of people in the region.


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