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Rising Sea Levels Mean Evacuation of Island States In a Decade

Rising Sea Levels Mean Evacuation of Island States In a Decade

Some Pacific island nations including Tuvalu and the Arctic’s Kivalina could have to evacuate their populations in the next ten years due to rising sea levels. It’s as clear a sign as any of the existence of climate change and its irreversible impact.

As Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, told the Guardian at the SXSW Eco conference in Austin, Texas, the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting at a much faster rate than predicted. The major ice sheets in Greenland and the Arctic are “critical from the standpoint of sea level rise.” Once these start melting, sea level begins to rise at a faster rate, a reminder of how what happens in one part of the world plays out elsewhere.

Many of the Pacific Islands are only 4.6 meters above sea level at their highest point, so even a small rise in ocean temperatures could causes flooding, erosion and the loss of fresh water supplies.

There’s no question that the sea ice in the arctic is lessening. Three weeks ago, the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado reported that the sea ice had shrunk 18 percent more than the previous record in 2007, to a record low of 3.41 square kilometers.

Kivalina, Alaska (uscgpress/flickr)

Mann (who was one of the members of an IPCC team on climate change that won a Nobel Prize in 2007) and other scientists had previously predicted that sea levels would rise to dangerous levels for residents of islands such as Tuvalu, but they had not thought this would happen so soon. Mann emphasized the huge dilemma for the islands’ residents, who stand to lose “thousands of years of culture” and will have to leave their homes, their world, behind before too long as a direct result of “dangerous anthropogenic interference.”

Overall, Mann states that we need to acknowledge that greenhouse gas emissions are already affecting us in dramatic ways. The unprecedented drought and wildfires of last summer are other indicators that what some thought were theoretical effects of climate change have become realities. Says Mann,

The climate models tell us that what today are record breaking levels of heat will become a typical summer in a matter of 20-30 years if we carry on with business as usual. Not only will this become the new normal but we will have to change the scale because we will see heat and drought far worse than anything we have seen before.

Mann is aware of how dire his predictions sound and has indeed come under heavy criticism from climate deniers for making such. But as he tells the Guardian, scientists have tended to be “conservative in their forecasts out of fear that they will be attacked for overstating evidence.” Climate deniers have used “tactics” that seek “not only to intimidate scientists already in the public arena, but also to warn off others from taking part in the public discourse.”

Tuvalu (mrlins/flickr)


On a more positive note, Mann describes himself as “optimistic” that public attitudes about climate change are shifting. He even suggests that we are “close to a potential tipping point in public consciousness” due, for worse or for better, to people experiencing what climate change means, the searing heat of summers like the last one.

Indeed, I often recall a conversation with a student who has declared himself a staunch supporter of fighting against global warming. This student was not, by his own admitting, an environmentalist activist or drawn to green causes. He had spent a happy semester studying in a Scandinavian country where he’d found reindeer meat for sale at the grocery store. Returning to New Jersey, he was appalled at how cold the winter wasn’t and so many people (not me) shrugged off the warmer temperatures.

Islands are being lost, soon there will no sea ice in the arctic in the summer. Welcome to a warm new world of our own making.

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Top photo: leighblackall/flickr

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1:54PM PDT on Aug 12, 2013

The Representative from CA's 48th district (Tyrone) accused the Democrats of falsely claiming "Climate Change" to further their agenda and fool the people.

10:18PM PDT on Mar 24, 2013

not a good scenario i'm afraid.

6:39AM PST on Mar 2, 2013

Something should be done about pollution, especially in countries like China who do not have an EPA to govern over manufacturing companies. If we stopped buying goods made in China, then manufacturing would lessen there, and so would some of their pollution.

6:36AM PST on Mar 2, 2013

THE USA isn't the only country gearing up for refugees...

New Zealand and Australia started making preparations for increased immigration from those islands about a decade ago ~ believe it or not; (primarily aiming to relocate willing migrants to similar climates to what they are used to..).

IN addition, some island states where the natives are planning on staying and adapting, have already begun buying up farmland on higher islands ~ so that their farmers will have somewhere to move their operations to, when they lose their own farms..

Events aren't standing still over here !

6:08AM PST on Mar 1, 2013

Thanks for sharing, but with the polar ice melting it is inevitable that the oceans will rise and low lying land will flood. Many of the worlds population will be displaced.

11:21AM PST on Feb 4, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

9:01AM PST on Jan 22, 2013


11:25AM PST on Dec 27, 2012

Thank you for the link, Will! That's horrible!

3:11AM PST on Dec 27, 2012

If you think global warming is the only thing that can destroy the arctic, watch this. It's an icebreaker taking people to....wait for it.... The North Pole!

4:21PM PST on Dec 22, 2012

So sad.

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