Climate Change Will Make Thousands of Islands Uninhabitable. A New Study Says Itâ€™ll Happen Sooner Th
Climate Change Will Make Thousands of Islands Uninhabitable. A New Study Says Itâ€™ll Happen Sooner Th:
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A thin strip of coral atolls separates the ocean from the lagoon in Majuro, Marshall Islands.Nicole Evatt/AP On Christmas Eve 2008, the president of the Marshall IslandsÂ declared a state of emergency after seawater flooded the countryâ€™s biggest urban areas, displaced hundreds of islanders, destroyed dozens of homes, and contaminated freshwater reserves. But this wasnâ€™t some freak storm or tsunami; it was a garden-variety, seasonal storm surge, coupled with high tidesâ€”and it markedÂ the third timeÂ that monthÂ the country had been hit by a major flooding event. â€œIf the tide had been two feet higher, it would have been much worse,â€ saidÂ Deborah Manase,Â then the deputy director of the Office of Environmental Planning and Policy Coordination. Nearly a decade later, Manaseâ€™s words sound foreboding. By some estimates, sea level is projected to rise at least that much by 2100, thanks to climate change, but nowÂ scientists are saying thousands of islands may become uninhabitable even sooner than that due to frequent flooding and,Â consequently, freshwater contamination. Specifically, most low-lying atoll islands (islands formed of coral) will lack potable water by 2050, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. Those islands could include, according to the authors, the Caroline Islands, Cook Islands, Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, Society Islands, Spratly Islands, Maldives, Seychelles, and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. â€œHistorically, these islands would be over-washed every 20 to 30 years, due to a big North Pacific winter storm or the passage of a typhoon,â€ Curt Storlazzi, the lead author on the study and a research geologist with the US Geological Survey, tells Mother Jones. â€œHowever, what we started to see is, because sea level is rising, these events are now happening multiple times per decade.â€ To get their projections, researchers from the USGS, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, International Atomic Energy Agency, and the University of HawaiiÂ studied Roi-Namur, an atoll islandÂ in the Marshall Islands chain located in the central Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the Philippines. Using the terrain measurements ofÂ Roi-Namur, they built computer models that could predict how sea-level rise would affectÂ its freshwater resources andÂ similar, low-lying islands. Based on current greenhouse gas emission rates, sea-level rise will â€œlead to the annual wave-driven overwash of most atoll islands by the mid-21st century,â€ the authors write. This will cause â€œfrequent damage to infrastructureâ€ and the â€œinability of their freshwater aquifers to recoverâ€ between flooding events, leaving the islands without a clean water source.Â â€œThey are asking the right question,â€ saysÂ Bob Kopp, director of the Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Rutgers University, who was notÂ involvedÂ with this study. But Kopp said itâ€™s worth notingÂ some of the