As temperatures in the Arctic continue to soar to record highs, concern is growing about which countries will be next. One example: tiny Pacific island states that are shivering during the coldest months of the year as sea levels rise with shrinking ice shelves.
Since 2014, Kiribati, one of many small, low-lying island nations, has experienced soaring temperatures and rising sea levels on an unprecedented level.
Experts say climate change and other pressures are leading the nation’s sea level to rise much faster than previously anticipated.
When 1,679-square-mile Kosrae – a small island in the South Pacific Ocean considered among the world’s most threatened – was virtually surrounded by coral last month, officials were alarmed. The island was too small to evacuate its inhabitants and stranded, since the island’s harbor was inundated.
Unchecked, sea levels are expected to rise by an average of three feet by 2100 on Kosrae, causing about 18 feet of encroaching sea level to reach the northern coastline of Kosrae over the next 30 years.
“With the sea level rising at a pace of just a few inches per year, nothing will stop it. Because we are not going to be able to catch our breath at all. So we are resigned,” the governor of Kosrae said after a recent review of sea level rise on the island.
In 2016, researchers found that nearby Rarotonga – the capital of the Cook Islands – was also experiencing increased levels of oceanic acid, particularly in areas along the coast. Average per capita acidity is already nearly 10 times higher than the global average.