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Upper-Intermediate - Advanced Instant Lesson™

Pacific Islands Sinking

Pre-Reading Activities

A: Discussion

Discuss the following questions in small groups.

1. Would you like the climate where you live to be warmer or colder? Give reasons for your answer.
2. Greenhouse gas emissions are gases, such as carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), that are sent out into the atmosphere and trap the heat of the sun.
    a. Will the earth's temperature increase or decrease if greenhouse gases continue to be sent into the air at the same rate they are now?
    b. What might happen globally as a result of this temperature change? How might your lifestyle change?

B: Vocabulary

The following words in bold are in today's article. Work out the forms of each word (noun, verb, adjective, etc.) and match them to their meanings.

1. The father chided himself for not spending more time with his children.
2. There was grave concern about the man's condition after he was hit by a car while walking across the street.
3. Fortunately, the flood waters did not submerge the rice fields.
4. Failing my first year at university and having to repeat it had a profound effect on my study habits.
5. The country gave $50 million in aid last fiscal year.
6. The government wants to implement changes in foreign policy.
7. His predecessor was a very popular public figure.
8. Batman and his sidekick Robin were busy every day saving the good people of Gotham City.
9. "This is a new benchmark for water pollution control," said the Environment Minister.
10. The woman said it was a flawed contract and refused to sign it.

a. connected with government or public money
b. previous person in that position
c. having faults
d. criticized
e. make something happen; carry out
f. put underwater
g. very serious and important
h. a standard or level to measure quality
i.  extreme
j.  assistant; close friend

Reading Activities

A: Comprehension

Today's article is about a meeting of the leaders of Pacific Island nations. The big topic of discussion at the meeting was the Kyoto Protocol - an agreement on global warming that requires countries to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. Read Part One of the article and answer the following questions.

1. Which countries have not signed the Kyoto Protocol?
2. What was the name of the meeting being held?
3. How many countries released a statement?
4. What are the nations worried about?
5. Which country gives the most money to Pacific Island states?
6. How high above sea level is Tuvalu?
7. When does Tuvalu think it will be underwater?

Part One
Sinking Pacific States Slam U.S. over Sea Levels
By Paul Tait

SUVA Thurs August 15 (Reuters) - Pacific Island nations, most at risk of sinking beneath rising sea levels, chided the United States on Thursday for not signing the Kyoto Protocol and urged big aid donor Australia to do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Six island states met at the start of the annual Pacific Islands Forum and expressed their grave concern about climate change. The former leader of one of the islands, Tuvalu, predicted the Pacific would submerge his country in 50 years.

The leaders of the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu released a statement saying they "expressed profound disappointment at the decision of the U.S. to reject the Kyoto Protocol."

The statement stopped short of also naming Australia, the region's biggest greenhouse emitter and one of its largest aid donors. Canberra is expected to give more than $278.9 million in aid to the region in the next fiscal year. Australia also is not a signatory to the 1997 treaty on global warming that limits greenhouse gas emissions.

"We are very sad," Tuvalu Prime Minister Saufatu Sopoanga told a news conference. "Australia is one of our traditional donors."

"We were actually expecting they would do something concrete about...making a marked contribution to ensuring that industrialized countries respect and implement the Kyoto protocol," he said.

Sopoanga's nation of about 11,000 people measures just 10 square miles. A string of nine coral atolls, Tuvalu is just 16 feet above sea level at its highest point.

Tuvalu fears its last palm tree could sink under the Pacific within 50 years.


concrete - real

string - a line

atolls - small coral islands shaped like rings with a lake of sea water in the middle

Article © 2002 Reuters Limited. Lesson © 2002

B: True, False or Not Given

Read Part Two of the article and mark the following statements 'T' if they are true, 'F' if they are false and 'NG' if the information is not given in the article.

1. Tuvalu has sued the U.S. and Australia over their failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
2. The United States is interested in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Australia has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions.
4. Australia will meet its Kyoto Protocol targets.
5. The Australian Prime Minister thinks Australia has similar views to Pacific Island states about climate change.
6. Australia would like the United States to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

Part Two

(.../Continued) In March, Sopoanga's predecessor Koloa Talake said Tuvalu might sue the United States and its climate policy sidekick Australia over their failure to ratify the Kyoto protocol.

The Bush administration abandoned the Kyoto protocol in 2001, arguing that it would hurt the US economy. But Bush has put forward a plan aimed at encouraging industries to trim emissions.

Australia released data on Thursday showing its greenhouse emissions would rise by about 11 percent by 2010 from 1990 levels, slightly more than its Kyoto target of eight percent. Without the government's actions, however, the emissions would have increased by 22 percent, officials said.

"Australia moved early on domestic greenhouse response and the figures released today provide a new benchmark for climate change action," said a proud Australian Environment Minister David Kemp in releasing the latest greenhouse data in Canberra.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who is attending the Pacific Islands Forum, described the battle against climate change as a great challenge and did not think Australia's concern varied greatly from that of the small island states.

However, he repeated his conservative government's position that Australia would not sign up to Kyoto because the absence of the United States makes it a flawed treaty.




ratify - approve

trim - reduce

treaty - a formal agreement between two or more countries

Article © 2002 Reuters Limited. Lesson © 2002


C: Understanding the Main Idea

Which of the following headlines best sums up the main idea of the article?

A. The Islands Of Tuvalu Are Sinking
B. Pacific Island States Meet To Discuss Rising Sea levels
C. Sinking Pacific States Criticize US and Australia
D. Pacific States To Sue US Over Sea Levels

D: Vocabulary

Complete the following table.

Person or group responsible for an action


Post-Reading Activities
You may do one or more of these.

A: Language

One way of expressing an imaginary situation in the past is to use without + noun (phrase) and would have + past participle. (e.g. Without the government's actions, the emissions would have increased by 22%.)

Rewrite the following sentences to show what would have happened if the situation had been different. (The first one is done for you as an example.)

1. I helped him pass the test.
Without __________ __________, he __________ __________ __________ the test.
Answer: Without my help, he would have failed the test.

2. He worked hard to become rich.
Without __________ __________, he __________ __________ __________ rich.

3. She trained for many hours to win the race.

4. They had a car, so they arrived on time.

5. We had an umbrella, so we didn't get wet.

Now write some sentences of your own using the structure you have just studied.

B: Thinking Carefully

In small groups look at the excerpts from the article and answer the questions that follow. You will need to use your own ideas as well as information from the article.

1. 'The statement stopped short of also naming Australia....'
What do you think 'stopped short' means? Did it name Australia or not? What could be a reason for not naming Australia?

2. 'Tuvalu fears its last palm tree could sink under the Pacific within 50 years.'
Explain the link between global warming and rising sea levels.

3. 'In March, Sopoanga's predecessor Koloa Talake said Tuvalu might sue the United States and its climate policy sidekick Australia over their failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.'
What grounds (reasons) would Tuvalu have for suing the US and Australia?

4. 'The Bush administration abandoned the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, arguing that it would hurt the US economy.'
Why would the Kyoto Protocol hurt the US economy?

5. If the world's climate continues to heat up, what do you think will be the consequences for the following things?
a. health / diseases    b. clothing / fashion    c. appliances    d. holiday destinations    e. crops

C: Role Play

Work with a partner. One person will play the Australian Prime Minister and the other will play the Prime Minister of Tuvalu. Discuss the pros and cons of why it is important to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

D: Writing

Imagine you are the Prime Minister of Tuvalu. Write to the Australian Prime Minister and explain why it is important that Australia approve of the Kyoto Protocol.


Please Note: This lesson also has a number of interactive exercises for your students to do online at Students can write a letter to a head of state expressing their opinion. You can get a username and password for your students by clicking on the blue icon next to this lesson description at

Pre-Reading Activities

A: Discussion - Notes

The purpose of this discussion is to get students talking about climate and also encourage them to share what they know about greenhouse gas emissions. It is not important that you tell them the answers to number 2 at this point.  They will find the answers in the article.

B: Vocabulary - Answers

1. d;   2. g;   3. f;  4. i;   5. a;   6. e;   7. b;   8. j;   9. h;   10. c.

Reading Activities

A: Comprehension - Notes

Please note that only those Pacific Island nations mentioned in the article are shown on the map (along with New Zealand and Australia). You may like to refer students to a world map so that they can find the location of other Pacific Island nations like Fiji and Tonga. For more information about the Pacific Islands Forum and a list of members, students can look at:

A: Comprehension - Answers

1. The United States and Australia.
2. The Pacific Islands Forum.
3. Six.
4. They are concerned that rising sea levels will submerge their nations.

5. Australia.
6. 16 feet (about 5 meters).
7. In 50 years.

B: True, False or Not Given - Answers

1. F (They might sue.)
2. T
3. F (Emissions will rise by about 11% by 2010.)

4. F (The Kyoto target is a rise of 8%.)

5. T

6. NG

C: Understanding the Main Idea - Answer

C is the best headline. A and B contain some of the information, but not the main point. D is not correct.

D: Vocabulary - Answers

Person or group responsible for an action
donor donation
signatory signature
contributor contribution
emitter emission
leader leadership


Post-Reading Activities

A: Language - Answers

2. Without hard work, he wouldn't have become rich.
3. Without many hours of training, she wouldn't have won the race.

4. Without a car, they would have arrived late.

5. Without an umbrella, we would have got wet.

B: Thinking Carefully - Suggested Answers

1. The phrase 'stopped short' means to stop before the end of something. Someone stops before actually saying
or doing something while hinting at it. In this case they criticized Australia's position, but did not name Australia. They may have been frightened to name Australia because it donates a lot of money to Pacific Island nations.

2. Global warming could melt the polar ice caps which would cause a rise in sea levels.

3. Tuvalu might argue that emissions from industries and motor vehicles in the US are a major contributor to global warming and they have a responsibility to reduce emissions.

4. If industries in the US have to reduce emissions it would add to their costs and reduce profits and therefore hurt the economy.

5. a. health / diseases: Skin cancer rates could increase as could tropical diseases. Illnesses associated with cold weather such as the 'flu may decrease.
b. clothing / fashion: Heavier clothing and warmer fabrics may become less popular, while more lightweight garments and fabrics such as cotton could become more popular.

c. appliances: Air conditioners and fans will be more in demand and refrigeration more necessary. Heaters will be less necessary.

d. holiday destinations: There may be less snow, so skiing holidays will become more difficult, but warmer sea temperatures will encourage more people to spend time at the beach.

e. crops: Crops that can grow in warmer climates will become more popular, whereas those that require cooler climates will become more difficult to grow. Crops may be genetically engineered to grow in warmer climates.

D: Writing - Notes

Students can do this letter writing exercise online at


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