According to the new chief of the UN climate advisory, small islands are in severe danger of drowning as climate change raises sea levels. “Small island states will be really badly affected. A lot of them will be submerged – the Maldive islands, all those in the South Pacific and the Caribbean islands,” says Rajendra Pachauri, who was elected chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last week. “Japan could suffer difficulty although Japan is not quite as vulnerable as some of the small islands.

“In the next three, four, maybe five decades we will see the impact of climate change such as sea level rise, impact on agriculture, impact on water, impact on health because there are certain diseases and viruses which could increase,” Pachauri says.

A recent UN study predicts that global warming could cause more than 40 Himalayan glacial lakes to burst their banks in five years’ time, causing floods and killing thousands of people.

Pachauri worries that climate change could have a deep impact on agriculture. Wheat, which is highly sensitive to temperature, is in danger as climate changes could create higher temperatures in some parts of the world. “If people earning a living by growing wheat move to coarse grains would they get the same level of earnings? If they don’t, would they move to towns and cities,” he says.

Some environmentalists say Pachauri was elected to the UN post due to pressures from the U.S., who wanted to replace U.S. scientist Robert Watson, who has criticized the United States for not joining the Kyoto Protocol, an worldwide agreement to reduce the burning of fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases. The allegations come from a leaked White House memo from a major U.S. oil company urging that Watson’s re-election be opposed.

Pachauri denies any influence from oil companies and says, “All they can do is maybe pressure a few governments here and there.”

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