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(HOST) Islands and low-lying beaches in the Pacific Ocean are being drowned as warmed sea-waters rise. Much of the change is blamed by scientists on global warming, as commentator Ruth Page explains.

(PAGE) Tebua Island had for centuries lain low, but visible, in the South Pacific. Now it’s gone, swallowed by a rising ocean. Many scientists say its disappearance, and the reduction in size of low- lying islands nearby, is the result of global warming.

Tebua isn’t the only one; International Wildlife and other environ- mental organizations say other islands have drowned in recent years. They also say salt water has risen on many South Pacific lands, polluting local water supplies and damaging crops.

A conscientious writer, Curtis A. Moore, went to the islands to see for himself. In Kiribati, where the land is only three feet above sea level, the island’s size has been reduced by a third. Coconut palms are dying, being replaced by saltbush that tolerates salty water. Residents point out that, unlike the palms, saltbush pro- vides no food or shade.

The earth doesn’t warm equally everywhere. Arctic regions report rises of as much as six degrees Fahrenheit. Parts of the South Pacific have warmed nearly two degrees. Temperate zones have lesser rises, though enough to cause plants and birds to welcome spring a few days to a week earlier than they used to.

Malaria, one of the world’s most expensive diseases in human lives lost, and in money, has spread into some Pacific highlands. They’ve warmed enough so malaria-carrying mosquitoes can now survive there.

Many areas, including parts of Australia, report serious weather changes, long droughts replacing former rainy seasons. Some islands, including Fiji, have suffered famines as a result. Typhoons and hurricanes are increasing in number and ferocity, as the State of Florida has already noted this year. These changes are consis- tent with the dangers scientists have predicted as the planet continues to warm.

While our federal administration concerns itself with other matters, many states and cities are taking action on their own. California has the world’s sixth largest economy, and Governor Schwartzen- egger has called for across-the-board cuts in global-warming pollu- tants such as carbon dioxide.

North Carolina is the first of our southeastern states to act. They’ve set up a special commission to discuss heat-trapping pollution and what they may need to do about it. Other cities and states are taking action; Vermont’s exploring alternative energy sources. Some American auto manufacturers are starting to produce vehicles that save gas.

Our government seems unconcerned. Instead of cutting emissions of greenhouse gases by reducing dependence on coal and gaso- line, the government allowed emissions to increase by 11 percent between 1990 and 1998. The United States may be the leader of the free world, but we lag far behind in dealing with climate change.

This is Ruth Page in Shelburne.

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