Accuracy in Media

Time magazine traveled to a tiny village in Fiji to attempt to prove the dangers of climate change and still came up short.

Saltwater “seeps up through the soil as far as 300 feet from Natewa Bay,” wrote Justin Worland of Time under “The Leaders of These Sinking Countries are Fighting to Stop Climate Change. Here’s What the Rest of the World Can Learn.”

“A few times a year, king tides inundate the village [of Vunidogoloa, Fiji] with knee-high waters; locals were forced to place precious possessions on tall surfaces and run for the hills.

“All the rights of the living had been lost because of climate change,” the village administrator told Time.

Fiji relocated the low-lying village five years ago at a cost of $500,000, Time reported.

“Vunidogoloa is the first place in Fiji to relocate because of the effects of climate change, but it won’t be the last.” The prime minister told the reporter he may move up to 40 more villages in the coming years to “cope with rising sea levels, which globally climbed about 7.5 inches in the 20th century and could rise three feet more by the end of the 21st, according to the UN’s climate-science arm.”

Worland does not say why a 7.5-inch increase over 100 years caused the village of Vunidogoloa to flood during king tides or whether flooding occurred 100 years ago when the ocean came 7.5 inches less onto the sand.

Multiple organizations have called into question the prediction that oceans will rise three feet by the end of this century.

The International Panel on Climate Change predicts only about a half-meter rise in sea levels through the century of the 2000s, and although some have charged its predictions may be on the low end, “there is a 95 percent probability that sea level rise will be less than one meter by 2100,” wrote Earl Ritchie, a lecturer in the Department of Construction Management at the University of Houston in Forbes magazine.

But as Marc Morano pointed out at Climate Depot, new readings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration using tide gauge data show the average global sea level rise rate is between 1.7 and 1.8 millimeters per year – or about 5.6 inches this century.

There are variations, Morano wrote, but they are tied to rates and sources of vertical land motion. Land that moves frequently, such as the coast of Alaska, could see more sea level rise; land that doesn’t move so frequently is less vulnerable.

But the secret to mainstream media coverage of global warming is to place the danger in the future when it can’t fully be disputed.

“The relocation of villages like Vunidogoloa foreshadows the existential threat a changing and unsettled climate poses to a handful of small nations,” Worland wrote. “Intense storms and flooding have pounded Fiji’s islands, leaving the country to anticipate losing assets worth 5 percent of its GDP each year, a number expected to grow in the coming decades.

“Some years will be worse: In 2016, when Tropical Cyclone Winston hit, that figure ballooned to 20 percent. The constant turbulence has imperiled industry and choked off the food supply in Fiji: Other island nations like Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands could face even worse in the coming century, scientists say, with sea-level rise threatening to wipe them off the map entirely.”

They aren’t taking this lying down, Worland wrote. “Together, these mostly poor nations with little hard power leveraged the moral force of their peril to shape the global 2015 Paris agreement,” he wrote.

“They helped inspire hundreds of billions of dollars in financial commitments for the developing world from richer countries. They spurred the creation of last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that upended the climate debate. And they helped save complex international climate talks from collapse.”

Worland doesn’t say what talks he’s referring to, but the U.S. has pulled out of the 2015 Paris agreement, and no First World power has said it will meet its emissions targets under the agreement.

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