Indonesia could lose about 2,000 islands by 2030 due to climate change, the country’s environment minister said on Monday.
“It is very, very serious,” Rachmat Witoelar said at a media conference attended by Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. climate treaty secretariat.
He said studies by U.N. experts showed that sea levels were expected to rise about 89 centimeters, or 35 inches, in 2030 which meant that about 2,000 mostly uninhabited small islets would be submerged.
“We are still in a better position. Island countries like Saint Lucia, Fiji and the Bahamas would likely disappear,” he told Reuters.
Indonesia, which consists of 17,000 islands, has been trying to avert such a scenario by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and switching to biofuels, he said.
“We are optimistic it can be prevented. Switching to biofuels is not only good for the environment but also will benefit us economically considering the volatile state of oil prices,” he said.
Biofuels can be substituted for fossil fuels and are seen as a way to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases which are believed to contribute to global warming.
The environment minister also said rice shortages are forecast for next year because of wild weather blamed on climate change. “It is feared there will be a lack of rice production next year because of the changes in the weather and because the farmers are not used to this,” he said.
A major U.N. conference on climate change will be held in the Indonesian island of Bali in December.
A draft U.N. report due to be released in Paris on Feb. 2 projects a big rise in temperatures this century and warns of more heat waves, floods, droughts and rising seas linked to greenhouse gases.
World leaders signed a U.N. Climate Convention in 1992 with an overriding goal of stabilizing greenhouse gases at levels preventing “dangerous (human) interference with the climate system”.
However, it did not define “dangerous” and the issue has been a vexed point in efforts to slow climate change ever since.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N. plan for fighting global warming, 35 industrial nations have agreed to cut emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
President Bush pulled the United States out of the protocol in 2001, saying it would damage the U.S. economy and wrongly exempted developing nations from the first phase.