The island nations are under extreme threat! With ongoing global warming and climate change, people of these islands and their culture are at serious risk of submerging by the end of this century. The rising temperature has led to an increase in sea levels, frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like cyclones, hurricane, tides, drought and floods. This has made the population residing in low-lying island nations more vulnerable as most of these nations have limited means and resources to adapt to climate change. Island nations like Republic of Marshal Islands, the Maldives and other small island nations are in extreme danger and if we do not put a cap on our global carbon emission, these nations might even become non-existent.
The rising sea-level caused by melting of ice caps at the poles has added a huge amount of fresh water in the oceans. Also, the warming of the ocean has further led to an expansion of water. A repercussion of climate change and global warming, the rising sea levels have encroached upon some of the low-lying island nations. It is estimated that if the average temperature of the earth crosses the limit of 2 degree Celsius limit agreed upon in Paris Accord (2015) by 2100, the water levels in the sea will drown these island nations and some coastal cities around the world. For countries like Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Maldives and the Marshal Islands, the future looks grim. As the sea enters the coastal arable land, the salinification will damage and degrade land leading to a significant loss of island ecosystems and biospheres. It will even make it difficult to produce subsistence crops such as breadfruit. Agriculture and commercial sectors in Marshal island and Kiribati will be severely impacted. Populations will not only lose their livelihood with a decline in fisheries and aquaculture but will also witness food insecurity. Most of these island nations are heavily reliant on tourism for their economy, with frequent incidents of cyclones, drought and hurricanes, the number of tourists will dramatically fall, causing huge economic losses.
Marshal Islands are a collection of low-lying islands and atolls situated in the Pacific Ocean. The sea-level rise, high tides and storms have been causing damage to local homes and properties. The sea level has been increasing at 3.4 mm per year. Majuro atoll, the capital of the Marshal islands, is home to half of the population of the nation. If the sea level rises to 1 meter, eighty per cent of the Majuro atoll’s population will be lost to the sea. Increasing sea levels have resulted in the influx of seawater which has salinated the freshwater supply. In 2013, 200 homes were damaged and resulted in the shut down of airports. To guard themselves against the sea level rise and associated risks like king tides, people have built private sea walls. Efforts are being made to mitigate climate change catastrophe; new lands are being bought outside the nation to relocate its population. However, those who have relocated to other nations specifically the United Nations, have been encountering cultural difficulties and challenges to maintain their historical traditions. Similarly, other low-lying island nations like the Maldives, Tuvalu and Nauru have been dealing with sea-level rise too.
These nations need not only international aid to ameliorate their risks but an investment in adaptation programs are also required to fight climate change effectively.