What happens when your home disappears into the sea?


For thousands of people living in the Solomon Islands, close to Cool Earth’s Orangierie Bay partnership in Papua New Guinea, this is a question that must be answered.

Six islands have had large swathes of land washed into the sea and on two of those, entire villages were destroyed and people forced to relocate.

One was Nuatambu Island, home to 25 families, which has lost 11 houses and half its inhabitable area since 2011, according to research published this week1.

Five islands nearby have completely disappeared due to rising seas and erosion. It’s a discovery thought to be the first scientific confirmation of the impact of climate change on coastlines in the Pacific.

The missing islands, ranging in size from 2.5 acres 12.4 acres, were not inhabited by humans. But many nearby inhabited islands are now close to submersion.

“The sea has started to come inland, it forced us to move up to the hilltop and rebuild our village there away from the sea.”

Sirilo Sutaroti, 94, Nararo

The Solomon Islands archipelago has seen annual sea levels rise as much as 10mm over the last two decades, according to the research.

The scientists used aerial and satellite images dating back to 1947 of 33 islands as well as traditional knowledge and radiocarbon dating of trees for their findings.

In our Orangerie Bay partnership, several families have already had to relocate due to the rising sea levels.

Coastal areas with healthy rainforest are less likely to suffer from erosion as the roots keep soil entact, and keeping trees standing helps slow global warming, and in turn slows the rising sea levels.

It’s a stark warning that we need to do all we can to prevent more island homes from disappearing into the sea.

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  1. Environmental Research Letters, 6th May 2016: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/5/054011

Comments

  • bulonvu franklin says:

    i’d like to know much about coolearth , as botanist, i have a local NGO named Foresters Peace Network (Resea des Forestiers pour la Paix.] our network, we are focusing on mountain forest neigboring kahuzi biege np.if possible i woul like have more information to you. best wishes.

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