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MELBOURNE, Australia (November 13, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---A tidal specialist said he disagrees with claims that low-lying Pacific Island nations are at risk from increasing sea level rise caused by global warming.

Dr. Wolfgang Scherer, director of the national tidal facility at Flinders University in South Australia, outlined his research at the recent Pacific Islands Forum in Kiribati.

He said there is no doubt that sea levels have been rising since the Ice Age. But he disputes popular belief that the rate of change is accelerating.

"During the last Ice Age, sea levels were lower by 100 to 150 meters (330 to 495 feet) and have been rising ever since," he said. "The oceans might be warming, which would cause thermal expansion. Due to the enhanced greenhouse effect, one would expect sea level rise to go up faster. But so far with historical data that is available, we cannot find such an acceleration."

Scherer commends tiny Pacific Island countries that have taken precautionary measures against the possibility of rising sea levels. But he said they shouldn’t expect a catastrophe to happen overnight.

"When you are on a low-lying atoll like Kiribati and a storm surge produces a rise of sea level by one to two meters, it becomes very worrisome," he said. "But the large-scale effects occur from beach and coral erosion."

Scherer recommends that countries reduce their carbon dioxide output to slow the greenhouse effect

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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