Things changed during the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Different developments have been made which made the life of people easier. However, along with the advancement are the consequences that affect the environment that also led to climate change.
The village of Tebunginako located in the Abaiang island is said to be a fruitful and thriving place for its people. But in the 1970s, there was a problem that shook the villagers. By that time, the sea level started to rise and to inch closer to the houses in the village and climate change was believed to be the culprit. The said scenario caused the villagers to worry about.
“It’s no longer there,” said Tone, the president Kiribati. “What we do have is the church sitting in the middle of the sea when the tides come in.”
Over the past years, he had witnessed what the changes in the environment have done in their home. In fact, from 2003 to 2006 he saw how seawater floods freshwater ponds and how erosion damaged their food crops. These things made their community move from place to place.
“In the near future, communities may have to relocate. When it hits you directly, it’s very difficult for you to deny it,” he added.
Moreover, some islands were also affected. First was the small Arctic island which was reported to disappear by Russian scientists. The second was the 11-acre Hawaiian island that was washed away in October 2018 by hurricane Walaka. Near the end of 2018 local news reported the disappearance of an islet off the coast of Japan. The disappearance of the islands is said to be caused by climate change and even though they are considered to be uninhabited, still these incidents are warnings on what’s more to come.
“With some of these small islands, maybe it’s no big deal to the average person because they’re uninhabited, but you’re going to see these processes happen on larger islands and populated ones,” said Curt Storlazzi, geologists at the V.C Geological Survey’s Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center in Santa Cruz, California.
“If sea levels continue to rise as projected, there’s going to be even greater change,” he added.
The sea level rise was seen by scientists to be caused by climate change. As the amount of greenhouse gases continue to increase the temperature, therefore, will also increase. The glaciers and ice melt that led to the sea level rise.
As reported by the United Nations in 2013, sea level rise could rise between 1.5 feet and 3 feet by 2020 without a major reduction in the emissions of greenhouse gases. For Patrick Nunn, professor of geography at the University of the Sunshine Wart in Queensland, Australia, even countries took steps in reducing greenhouse gases emissions the sea level would still rise up to 6.5 feet by the end of the century.
“What we’ve done these far, as o the last 150 years or so, had been locked in,” he said. “There is a lot of uncertainty, but the general consensus is that we can get temperature under control but it’s a much larger challenge to get a sea level rise under control.”
“On many islands, even ones that aren’t low-lying the majority of critical infrastructure is right at the shoreline, whether its posts, airports, primary roads, power plants or water treatment plants, most of these things are very close to the coast,” said Storlazzi.
Aside from these facts, based on studies, it shows that climate change makes storms more intense specifically in the Caribbean Sea and West Pacific. The storms greatly affect the natural processes which lead to eroded coastlines and more sediment to build them back again. In fact, it is perceived that the extreme weather is the caused for the reshaping of islands particularly what happened in Hawaii due to hurricane Walaka.
“In a situation where the climate is not changing and sea levels are not rising, what has normally happened is these islands would eventually re-form after the storm passes,” explained Nunn. “In a changing climate, particularly one where the sea level is rising, I think intense storms of that kind will be a bigger knockout blow.”
Although it may seem obvious that climate change is the main reason for the disappearance of the islands. Scientists cannot conclude with certainty. For them, there are things to be known and discovered first, and there are many factors that can contribute to the matter, given that there many unknown things about the earth.
“You’re probably never going to be able to prove definitely that climate change was responsible for these particular phenomena,” said Nunn, “But at the same time, the evidence is just so overwhelming.”
The disappearance of the three islands (Hawaii, Japan, and the Arctic) is considered by scientists as warnings not only on what likely to happen on other uninhabited island but also on larger islands and continental coastlines. The sea level rise is expected to increase and continue for 100 years and this will serve as a global threat for all of us, according to NBC News.
“This gives us a window into the future,” Nunn said. “It tells us what’s likely to happen in the next 20 years or so, and not just in the island context.”
“The evidence is there. We can see what’s going to happen,” he added. “What’s happening to these islands is the same thing that is going to happen to New Orleans, Los Angeles and all sorts of coastline cities. The sooner we start thinking about this, the less painful it’s going to be,” Nunn concluded.