Climate change to drive migration from island homes sooner than thought
Low-lying atolls around the world will be overtaken by sea-level rises within a few decades, according to a new study
Hundreds of thousands of people will be forced from their homes on low-lying islands in the next few decades by sea-level rises and the contamination of fresh drinking water sources, scientists have warned.
A study by researchers at the US Geological Survey (USGS), the Deltares Institute in the Netherlands and Hawaii University has found that many small islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans will be uninhabitable for humans by the middle of this century. That is much earlier than previously thought.
More than half a million people around the world live on atoll islands, often extraordinary and beautiful structures based on coral reefs. Their closeness to sea level makes them particularly vulnerable to climate change.
The increase in urgency comes because, according to the authors of the report, previous studies had been based only on predicted sea-level rises. Today’s study also examined the impact of wave driven flooding on the availability of fresh water.
Saltwater flooding, leading to the contamination of water sources, will see most atolls become uninhabitable sometime between 2030 and 2060, said Curt Storlazzi, USGS geologist and lead author of the new report. “The tipping point when potable groundwater on the majority of atoll islands will be unavailable is projected to be reached no later than the middle of the 21st century.”