COMMENTS: Shrinking Islands

ABC assigned Bill Weir to kick off its Key to the World series from the Pacific islands. NBC, too, aired a single sponsor, abbreviated commercial newscast on December 4th (text link) last year. Back then NBC used the opportunity to run the same number of stories as usual, but to increase their average length. ABC took a different tack: it added Weir's single extended feature to its regular rundown of seven normal-length stories of 140 seconds or so.

The equatorial coral islands of Kiribati have an average elevation of just six feet, so any encroachment by salt water or increase in storm activity ruins the supply of potable water and kills plant life. President Anote Tong is planning for his people's world to end by 2050. Weir asked the sarong-clad leader if it was already past the point of no return: "I believe that is the case. I think the momentum must already be set." Even here, however, Weir found global warming skeptics. The principal of a local high school is a devout Christian and she trusts in God's promise to Noah after his flood, that the land will never again be submerged. Some more skeptical fellow islanders are leaving already. New Zealand, 2,600 miles away, has relaxed its immigration rules for "climate change refugees."


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