By Rachel Cernansky, Planet Green
Not that going underwater is the only form of danger: climate change is finding vulnerabilities in countries from Mexico to Russia, droughts in already-arid countries will grow worse, and the number of climate refugees worldwide is growing steadily.
Rainforests are threatened, disease is exacerbated, and hardest hit are poor populations and women around the world.
But, it’s still probably fair to say that the greatest threat from climate change faces small island nations that could be washed underwater with just a slight rise in sea levels. Here’s a look at a few of those nations.
20 million people are expected to be displaced because of rising seas caused by climate change.
Papua New Guinea
TreeHugger wrote last May: “The Carteret Islanders of Papua New Guinea have become the world’s first entire community to be displaced by climate change.” Papua New Guinea shares an island with Indonesia, another nation threatened by climate change.
The water is already rising in the Philippines, not only threatening homes of people who live near the coast, but flooding rice fields and devastating other areas of agricultural production. The ILO quotes the mayor of Jabonga, a resort town in a southern Philippine province: ďBefore only 20 per cent of water from the lake and seaside overflow to the community, now it has increased to about 80 per cent. It has affected farm production for rice, corn, vegetables and fruit trees.”
It’s not just faraway islands that Americans had never heard of before climate change started being talked about. Host of the Barbados Conference that focused on this issue back in 1994, Barbados is another of the small island nations at risk. According to UNESCO: “With populations, agricultural lands and infrastructures tending to be concentrated in the coastal zone, any rise in sea-level will have significant and profound effects on settlements, living conditions and island economies. The very survival of certain low-lying countries is threatened.”
The highest point of land on the Pacific island nation of Kiribati “is now just two yards (meters) above sea level, said [President Anote] Tong,” the Gstaad Project blog writes based on AP and IHT reports. “He said climate change ‘is not an issue of economic development; itís an issue of human survival. Some of Kiribatiís 94,000 people living in shoreline village communities have already been relocated from century-old sites.’”
From a paper by the OECD [PDF]: “In addition to this high biophysical exposure to the risk of sea level rise, Egyptís social sensitivity to sea level rise is particularly high. As discussed earlier in this section much of Egyptís infrastructure and development is along the low coastal lands, and the fertile Nile delta also constitutes the prime agricultural land in Egypt.”
TreeHugger has already reported on Tuvalu’s plea for help: “Home to some 10,000 people, the group of atolls and reefs is barely two meters above sea level. A 1989 U.N. report predicted that, at the current rate the ocean is rising, Tuvalu could vanish in the next 30 to 50 years.”
And, of course, the one we all know, thanks to last year’s underwater cabinet meeting held by Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed to bring attention to this issue.