The tide is high: The effect of climate change on our islands

by: Allison T.

This winter, the maximum sea ice extent, or the area of ocean where sea ice is present,  in the Arctic barely missed the lowest recorded amount. Melting ice means rising waters in the ocean, which is not good news for anyone.

On Easter Island, one nearly featureless stone statue has already been eroded down.

A few islands in particular have been hit hard by the effects of climate change, including the mysterious Easter Island, home to iconic Moai head statues scattered along the coasts of the island. Fairly recently, the rising sea level has started to erode the well-known landmarks of Easter Island, exposing the inside of seaside tombs. Many statues lie dangerously close to the edges of sea-beaten cliffs.

Other islands put at risk from being flooded by rising waters include Tahiti, Kiribati, and Seychelles. Many inhabitants are forced to move entire villages to higher elevations just to avoid flooding in their homes.

Some of these islands are only a few meters above sea level– therefore, only a few meters away from being submerged completely.

Not only are islanders and citizens in coastal cities in danger from climate change, entire ecosystems are affected as well. Florida is home to the most cities endangered by rising sea levels out of all the states, and its swamps and coral reefs could also be destroyed by flooding. These environments are sanctuaries for so much biodiversity, if they were destroyed, the flora and fauna unique to those habitats could be wiped out along with them.

We are in a dire situation. Studies show that over the past 20 years, the Global Mean Sea Level has been increasing about double the rate of the 80 years before. According to the International Panel on Climate Change’s prediction, the oceans will rise somewhere between 11 to 38 inches by the year 2100, more than ever before.

Should we not act before it’s too late, you’ll already be standing ankle-deep in water on your next island vacation.

The clothes of a family in Kiribati hang on a line only feet above the water.

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