The Front Lines of Sea Level Rise in the Pacific
Our dinghy coasted to the white beach as a local fishing family sauntered down to greet it. A young boy scaled a coconut tree to harvest fresh young coconuts to welcome us. As we took in the surroundings of this lost paradise, a lump formed in the back of our throats. This beautiful island, this community, this family - none of it will be here in 50 years or less.
As the scientist, Martin DesMalades from CRIOBE Lab in Perpignan, France summed up the feeling, “You know the science and hear the different opinions about where and how (impacts of climate change) will happen here. Then when you stand on the island with the people and see their life, it is a feeling of disbelief. You hope they can find a way.”
Located in the remote Western Pacific, the young Small Island Developing States of Kiribati (pronounced "Kir-ee-bahs), Tuvalu, and Chuuk are slated for the dubious honor of being some of the first nations in the world to lose the majority of their habitable land to the ravages of climate change. Cognizant of the fact climate change scientists have given their islands less than 50 years before much of it is uninhabitable, they are looking for any way possible to preserve their homes and their way of life.
Landing on that beach was the first time in my life to truly understand the implications of global warming and sea level rise - and my personal connection to it. Climate change has a whole new meaning when you meet it face to face.