As the climate warms, sea ice and the ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic continue to melt. These and other factors lead to increases in sea level and further warming of the Earth. Climate change will manifest in many many ways, including changes in weather patterns and more extreme weather events.
For some, though, rising sea levels may leave them underwater, Michael Mann said in an interview with The Guardian earlier this month.
See the disappearing islands >
According to the EPA, global sea level has risen by eight inches since 1870. This change is already affecting many low lying islands that have had to adapt. Some populations are moving to higher areas, or are trying to buy land from other countries to migrate its citizens, and some have even developed new ways of farming to protect their agriculture.
2007 estimates from the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change’s most conservative estimates suggest that global sea level will reach increase 8 to 16 inches above 1990 levels by 2090. The National Academy of Sciences predictions from 2009 suggest that by 2100, sea level could increase by anywhere from 16 inches to 56 inches, depending how the Earth responds to changing climate.
See the islands and how they are coping with rising sea levels.
The president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, is in talks with Fiji’s military government to buy up to 5,000 acres of land in order to relocate the 102,697 people that live in his country.
President Tong tells The Telegraph that this is their last resort: “Our people will have to move as the tides have reached our homes and villages.”
Kiribati is about halfway between Hawaii and Australia and is made up of 32 low-lying atolls and one raised island. Most of its population has already moved to one island, Tarawam, after the rest of their land disappeared beneath the ocean.
Villagers on Abaiang, one of the Kiribati Islands, had to relocate the entire village of Tebunginako because of rising seas and erosion.
The Maldives, consisting of over 1,100 islands to the west of India, is the world’s lowest-lying nation. On average the islands are only 1.3 meters above sea level. The 325,000 (plus 100,000 expatriate workers who are not counted in the census) residents of the islands are threatened by rising sea levels.
A documentary called The Island President tells the story of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives as he confronts the rise of the sea level in his country. A rise of just three feet would submerge the Maldives and make them uninhabitable.
Seychelles consists of 115 granite and coral islands in the western Indian Ocean, with a population of 87,122.
Scuba diver Micheal Espron tells The National: “The water used to be farther out. Soon, the water will be right up into the hotel.”
He also says that tourism will be affected when there are no beaches left around the islands. Locals remember that there used to be much more land for people, but now tourists are seen cramming into the small area of beaches that remain.
A rise of just three feet would submerge the Maldives and make them uninhabitable.
Torres Strait Islands
The Torres Strait Islands are located between Australia and New Guinea and are made up of 274 islands with a population over 8,000.
The Independent talked to locals who have been living by the sea for generations. One named Maria Passi said “at night I can’t sleep if the tide is high,” because she is no longer comfortable living by the sea after her house was flooded one night.
Her husband Ron remembers the night. “There was water everywhere, and rubbish floating around, and coconuts under the bed.” Maria added: “When I saw how it looked, I just sat down and cried.”
The United Nations declared the approximately 100 residents of Tegua, part of the Torres Strait Islands located in the South Pacific, the first climate change refugees in 2005.
Much of the flooding was because the island sunk nearly five inches between 1997 and 2009, but the sea level also rose, causing about a quarter of the flooding.
The Solomon Islands are east of Papua New Guinea, and have a population of 584,578. A team of French researchers have been monitoring the island of Vanikoro, part of the 992 islands that make up the island chain, because they think it is slowly sinking.
The team placed a survey marker a safe distance from the beach, and seven years later it was underwater. After what is know about Tegua the researchers found that along with rising sea levels, this particular island is also sinking.Flickr/les_butcher
Micronesia is made up of 607 mountainous islands and low-lying coral atolls and is being eroded away by rising sea levels and has even made cemeteries disappear.
The islands are east of the Philippines and have a population of 102,624. One man was seen standing shin-deep in water, where a cemetery used to be. Micronesia’s Ambassador to the UN told ABC News: “Even the dead are no longer safe in my country.”
The ocean water is also killing off food crops. A small one meter rise would make the island uninhabitable.
Palau consists of eight principal islands and more than 250 smaller ones, about 500 miles southeast of the Philippines. Their population of 20,000 is being threatened by rising sea levels.
William Brangham of PBS wrote: “Palau’s coasts are being eroded, its local farmlands tainted by seawater, and its valuable reefs threatened.”
The president of Palau, Johnson Toribiong, describes the damage he is seeing as “a slow-moving tsunami.”
The Carteret Islands are located in the south-west Pacific Ocean and is home to about 2,500 people. The Telegraph states that some people believe these islands will be uninhabitable by 2015, as high tides have inundated the islands, destroying crops, wells, and homes.
Bernard Tunim, a clan chief from the islands, tells The Telegraph: “In the last 10 to 20 years the change has been dramatic. We have experienced many king tides and when the wind blows, it comes right through the island, destroying our vegetables and fruit. The salt water destroyed bread fruit trees and poisoned the wells.”
Tuvalu consists of six true atolls and three reef islands that has a population of 11,636 that was estimated in 2005. The highest point in the country is less than five meters above sea level, but most of it is less than a meter above.
In 2003, Saufatu Sopoanga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, told the United Nations General Assembly: “We live in constant fear of the adverse impacts of climate change. For a coral atoll nation, sea level rise and more severe weather events loom as a growing threat to our entire population. The threat is real and serious, and is of no difference to a slow and insidious form of terrorism against us.”
Although not an island, Bangladesh, located in South Asia, experiences floods that cover about a quarter of the country every year. Climate change is making the floods worse and the 156 million people in the country are learning how to live with the effects.
Farmers have created agriculture that floats on rafts. These rafts are made of straw, rice stubble and a weed called water hyacinth.