Islands on the Front Line of Rising Sea Levels JACK Erdmann

Mangroves - plants that are capable of growing in salt water along shore lines

Migration with dignity - the program that allows citizens of threatened island nations to travel to other nations to learn no skills for the developed world

UN Paris Conference - A meeting that aimed to find a solution to cutting carbon emmisions

European Union - a union focused on managing the political, social, and economic state of western Europe

Seasteading institute - A non profit organization that aims to provide technology to aid those affected by climate change

Coastal Erosion - the process of shorelines slowly disappearing due to high sea levels

Who is being affected by the rising sea levels?

As the sea rises so does the threat of wiping out low lying islands. The article “Indonesia Proposes Renting” A majority of the islands in the Maldives “are currently just 1.5 metres above sea level, with the highest land point reaching less than 2.5 metres.” This leaves the islands of the Maldives and many other nations like it on the front line of rising sea levels, but they are not without a plan, many inhabitants of these nations plan to migrate to other island nations, Australia, and New Zealand well before the water erases their homes, this has come to be know as “migration with dignity.” This migration is also preparing people for jobs to be successful. The former president of Kiribati, Anote Tong says that “If you’re being dragged out of a boat, where is your dignity? If you choose to move and you choose to compete in the labour market as a qualified human being who is needed in that community, who will make contribution, that is dignity.” Preparation for new jobs outside of the country are preparing people for inevitable migration. However, not everyone is happy to migrate away from their homes and their culture yet.

What are mangroves?

Mangroves are plants that grow in saltwater along coasts across the globe. The American Museum of Natural History says that “there are 80 described species of mangroves, 60 of which live exclusively on coasts between the high- and low-tide lines. Mangroves once covered three-quarters of the world's tropical coastlines, with Southeast Asia hosting the greatest diversity.” These mangrove plants are present throughout many of these islands, but why are these plants so important? The National Ocean Service states that “Mangrove forests stabilize the coastline, reducing erosion from storm surges, currents, waves, and tides.” This alone slows coastal erosion from the rising sea levels, but why else are mangroves so important to fighting rising seas?

Why are mangroves so important?

Mangroves have a major impact on global warming. The mangrove wetlands in the Everglades in the southern tip of Florida alone store a lot of carbon, in fact “for about 360,000 acres of mangrove wetlands, the cash value totaled between $2 billion and $3.4 billion, or nearly seven times the amount Miami Beach plans to spend on new pumps to keep its streets dry.” The wetlands save literally billions of dollars because these plants alone store billions of dollars worth of carbon. The wetlands have been in a period of restoration over more than a decade, the results of habitat loss for these plants is alarming. When Karen McKee, a researcher for the National Wetlands Research Center traveled to Belize to investigate the impacts of removing mangroves she “found out that when mangroves are removed, the islands begin to sink and erode. Nearby reef flats and seagrass beds are also destroyed because dredge material is taken from those habitats.” The removal of mangroves not only speeds up land erosion, but this also affects the neighboring habitats, the people of Kiribati have been planting mangroves along their beaches, but is it too late? What other plans are there to help islanders?

What other plans are being considered to help people on islands?

While mangroves are important, some have decided to accept the idea that sea levels will continue to rise and have new ideas for these threatened people. Randolph Hencken, the executive director of seasteading institute explains that the "venture is poised to launch a seasteading industry that will provide environmental resiliency to the millions of people threatened by rising sea levels, provide economic opportunities to people in remote and economically deprived environments, and provide humanity with new opportunities for organizing societies and governments.” This floating city would help those affected by the rising seas and give them a new home; however, it is a pricy investment. Mike Ives, a writer for The New York Times says “the project’s pilot islands would cost a total of $10 million to $50 million and house a few dozen people and that the initial residents would most likely be middle-income buyers from the developed world.” Although ambitious, this project would cost a lot of money and time. Not to mention that those in immediate danger would not be the first welcomed to these floating cities. Who knows how long these people have. So, how much time do they have?

What can we expect for the future?

As the problem at hand had become more real each day, the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015 aimed to cut carbon emissions. Steven Williams, a writer for Care2 states that “a new investigation suggests that if the European Union hopes to meet its climate change goals, it must close all coal power plants by no later than 2030.” The goals that the EU wish to achieve are going to take a lot of work in such a short amount of time. Time is the factor for many of the threatened nations. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has “predicted climate change will cause sea levels to rise by nearly 60 centimetres by 2100 if nations do not make a concerted effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions.” As these islands begin to disappear and force their inhabitants to other nations, to floating cities, or wherever they might end up, there is still time to find new solutions.

"We may be on the front line going down first, but it will reach everyone in the end" - Pelenise Alofa


Created with images by KevGuy4101 - "Tarawa, Kiribati" • luigig - "Lagoon" • James St. John - "Rhizophora mangle (red mangroves) (San Salvador Island, Bahamas) 7" • yuko_ppp2501 - "マングローブ" • 3dman_eu - "maldives island blue" • DFAT photo library - "Kiribati Jun-Jul 2007"

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