Climate change has been an internationally recognised challenge since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, one of the effects of climate change that evades the eye is the rising sea level, which affects island nations. The rising sea level has two main factors — thermal expansion, which is the warming of the oceans, and the second being the melting of land-based ice such as glaciers and ice sheets.
Due to a rise in the sea level, the shorelines of island nations can be pushed back and nations can be engulfed entirely due to this phenomenon, forcing the residents to flee while their colonies are washed away. In January 2017, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted the rising of sea levels between 0.3 and 2.5 meters by the year 2100. This is an increase from their 2012 estimate of a rise of two meters.
To deal with the problem of rising sea levels, an Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) was set up in 1990. One of the island nations that is already being severely impacted is the nation of Tuvalu, where fresh water supply is being contaminated by seawater. All island nations including Tuvalu will be impacted by the rising sea level in the form of coastal erosion and displacement of fish stocks, while the displacement of the inhabitants would be imminent.
One of the solutions being put forward is construction of small island states into expanded landmasses. This might be one of the only ways to save small island nation societies from becoming extinct. For this to happen, the small island states need to get into joint ventures with wealthier nations. In return, the island nations can grant tenure to partner countries to invest in an island nation for its development. Together, marine-based industries such as sustainable aquaculture can be improved upon and expanded, while the marine ecosystem of these reclaimed islands could act as a resource for drug research and development.
Moreover, newly improved island nations could serve as tourist destinations, thus adding to the income of these economically fragile nations. This is one way to quash the threat of rising sea levels for (AOSIS) nations. This can only happen if international organisations such as the United Nations and global financial institutions such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), with the support of like-minded countries, pitch in with the sole purpose of environmental cooperation. To put the problem of the rising sea level into perspective for developed nations, globally, eight of the world’s 10 largest cities are near a coast, according to the UN Atlas of the Oceans.
Other effects of rising sea levels for small island nations are:
While inland nations can afford to ignore the ill effects of global warming-induced rising sea levels, coastal cities and island nations do not have that luxury. They have to act immediately to save not only their livelihoods, but also their territories from being washed away, and to avoid a large-scale migration of their population, which soon, if not acted upon, will not have a place to call home.
About the author: Yatish Kolli is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Journalism from New Delhi, India. Believes that correct governance and policy can bring tangible change in the societies we live in, writes to raise awareness about relevant issues.