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By Al Hulsen

TOKYO, Japan (April 24, 2000 – PIDP/CPIS)---Pacific Island leaders were in Tokyo Monday to meet with electric power company officials and consultants in efforts to find viable solutions to the problem of global warming and its effect on Pacific nations’ sea levels.

The government heads had returned to the capital from the southern resort city of Miyazaki the night before, following conclusion of the weekend PALM 2000 Japan-Pacific Island Leaders Meeting. At the summit, Japan announced some US$ 4 million in economic and social development assistance for the 14 South Pacific Forum island countries. (Australia and New Zealand also are Forum members. The French territory of New Caledonia is an official observer.)

According to some scientists, as atmospheric temperatures rise -- primarily due to carbon dioxide emissions from the industrialized countries’ use of fossil fuels -- polar ice caps melt. This, in turn, causes sea levels to rise, endangering low-lying islands. Among the most vulnerable areas are the Pacific nations of Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands.

Dr. Yoichi Kaya, Director General of the Research Institute of Innovative Technologies for the Earth, said current research indicates temperatures will rise 1.5 - 3.5 degrees Celsius and sea levels 15 – 95 centimeters by 2100.

He called the situation "almost not reversible" and "quite serious" and that carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced "one-quarter to one-third of current levels."

His solution is to dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) and replace them with nuclear power and such other options as solar, wind and biomass (including animal dung cakes) energy.

Dr. Kaya noted that nuclear energy now provides 78.2 % of France’s power needs, with Japan only at 35.2 % and the U.S. still lower at 20.1 %

Palau President Kuniwo Nakamura emphasized during the meeting that the continued high use of fossil fuels by most of the industrialized nations "is of great concern to South Pacific Forum members and an issue extremely vital to our futures."

Dr. Terepai Maoate, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, said Pacific nations are like "the canary in the coal mine," where the effects of global warming are first being felt and causing "extreme threats to our environment."

"The continued reliance on fossil fuels is untenable," he said, agreeing that "solar, wind and other power sources hold great promise" in the Pacific.

He told the Japanese experts that the Pacific Islands are available as "a good test market."

Dr. Maoate also said, "I am looking at the potential of nuclear energy."

At the conclusion of the meeting, Niue Premier Sani Lakatani asked for "Japan’s guidance and provision of assistance" in solving the global warning threat.

Tomorrow, some of the Pacific Island leaders will travel by bullet train to the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station, about 140 miles west of Tokyo, to learn more about nuclear energy.

They also will discuss concerns over the dangers involved in Japan’s continued shipments of spent nuclear fuel through the Pacific to France and the United Kingdom for reprocessing.

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