Well unfortunately Fijian people know the answer...
Almost everyone knows about Fiji, with beautiful beaches and tourist attractions. White, long beaches, turquoise waters, palm trees…
Fiji is a country and archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean. It surrounds the Koro Sea about 1,300 miles (2,100 km) north of Auckland, New Zealand. The archipelago consists of some 300 islands and 540 islets scattered over about 1,000,000 square miles. About 100 of the 300 islands are inhabited.
Recently besides being a heaven, Fiji is known for something else, the threat of rising sea waters.
As it is an archipelago, every year Fiji faces the threat of sinking.
The reality hits hard, the Earth’s temperature is rising, but the effects of climate change are felt more in some parts of the world. Although Fiji produces less than 1% of the globe’s carbon emissions, the most powerful effects are on this country. For instance, while Australia emits 15 metric tons of CO2 per capita, one of the largest per capita emissions in the world, Fiji emits only 1.95 tons per capita.
Yet Fiji is not the only sinking city, the others are Jakarta, Amsterdam, Lagos, Venice, Alexandria, Kiribati, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, French Polynesia, Charleston, Miami, New Orleans, Solomon Islands, Dhaka, Maldives, Houston, Tuvalu and Rotterdam. As the carbon emissions and climate change rises the number of these cities will rise as well.
The reason for the sea level rise
The answer is not a difficult one. We have been facing it for years.
Sea level change is driven by a variety of mechanisms operating at different spatial and temporal scales. The rise of sea level is due to thermal expansion of the ocean as it warms, and increased mass of water in the ocean due to melting ice from mountain glaciers and the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets.
As human activities continue to hazard the environment, islands are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Burning fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. As global surface temperatures increase, the planet’s glaciers and ice sheets melt, rising sea levels.
The magnitude of the rise will depend strongly on the rate of future carbon dioxide emissions and future global warming, and the speed might increasingly depend on the rate of glacier and ice sheet melting.
In 2013, the United Nations released a sweeping report projecting that without major reductions in emissions, sea levels could rise between 1.5 feet and 3 feet by 2100. And according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, between 1900 and 2018, the global average sea level rose by 16-21 cms.
Nasa has launched the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change AR6 Sea Level Projection Tool mapping projections of future sea level rise globally from 2020 to 2150 depending upon future emissions scenarios.
It wasn’t sharp and sudden, in years the sea level has risen and most of the people did not want to see it.
Let's have a look at further scenarios. What happens when the sea level rises?
Ice sheet melts, Arctic sea ice thaws, water resources are under pressure, heat waves and heavy rains intensify, coral reefs disappear, sea creatures and other animals migrate to the poles and even become extinct. Erosion damages food, the food supply becomes under threat and famine.seawater floods the freshwater ponds.
People have to abandon their homes, the population is vulnerable to displacement, disease and lives. Those people are called climate refugees or forgotten people, and the cities as ghost towns.
Rising sea levels has led to the erosion of Fiji’s coastal areas, and the intrusion of saltwater has destroyed farmland and forced residents to move to safer ground. Vunidogoloa is one of them. It was the first Fijian village to experience the impacts of climate change. The village was composed of 26 houses where 32 families lived. The village was replaced by their new home Kenani.
Although Canberra and Brasilia show that relocating a major population is possible experts state that relocation is not a permanent solution which doesn’t address the root causes of the problem.
In order to avoid the calamity of rising sea levels, there are some so-called solutions according to governments. One of them is to redesign coastlines by generating bigger waves, adding layers of sediment in some places or moving to higher locations. Yet relocation is difficult with significant economic, social and psychological impacts on people.
Rising sea levels in Fiji is just an instance of climate change. It is not affecting only one or several countries or regions. The impact will spread and is spreading already all over the world. Since we live in a global world reluctantly or not we depend on each other. Experts believe that climate change will cause a bigger impact unless the global community gets into serious action about pollution, overdevelopment of natural environments and overuse of natural resources.
As stated before Fiji is just an example, it was not the first nor will be the last. Every action we do affects one another. We can start to be mindful about the Earth before it becomes too late. Ask this question: I care about the Earth, do you?