Rising Seas

by Owen Dubeck

Coral Davenport summarizes the effects of rising sea levels across Kiribati, Greenland, Panama, Fiji and the United States. Kiribati, a chain of islands northwest of Australia, will see some of the worst consequences. Given the island’s low elevation, it could be completely underwater by 2100. Fortunately, the government has urgently responded, buying over 6,000 acres of land in Fiji. This land can function both as a source of crops and possibly a new home.

Davenport describes that the government of Panama has unsuccessfully attempted to relocate the Kuna tribe from their vulnerable islands. Panama has 350 islands off of its gulf-facing coast that are all vulnerable to climate change. Sea levels are rising 3/4 of an inch per year, which will make the islands uninhabitable in 20-30 years. Although the Panama government has established plans for relocating the Kuna people, the tribe refuses to move. The Kuna people distrust the judgment of the Panama government.

Fiji is experiencing similar problem with crops and relocation from rising water. Like in Kiribati, crops in lower elevation areas are being destroyed. The government has also relocated people to areas of the country that are safe from the effects of the next 100 years of climate change. Fiji is now deciding how to respond to the imminent needs of the people of Tuvalu and Kiribati, who may become the first refugees of climate change.

Davenport continues by briefly describing the threats to the east coast of the United States and provides some economic impact estimates. The east coast could see rises in sea levels that are up to four times higher than what is expected globally. If the sea levels were to rise 1.5 feet, the major cities along the coast could expect $6 Trillion in damages!

Lastly, Davenport describes the effects of climate change on Greenland. Simply put, the glaciers are melting rapidly in Greenland. A startling 98.6% of the glacial surface melted in 2012. The melting has also revealed addition resources the people of Greenland, causing a political movement to detach from Denmark’s influence.

The article summarizes the social, economic and political problems across five countries that have been created by rising sea levels. Davenport emphasizes the urgency to ensure those who are vulnerable do not become displaced by catastrophe.

Davenport, Coral. “Rising Seas.” New York Times (New York, NY), March 28, 2014.


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