Has any island already disappeared due to global warming?
SHORT ANSWER: Yes, a few, small islands actually have.
Global warming has many effects on oceans, and one of the most visible effects is the rise in sea levels. (For those who are curious, you can get a better understanding of how climate change affects oceans from this post).
Rising sea levels can of course drown islands, in theory. But has any such disappearance happened yet in reality?
The good news first: No large or prominent island has yet drowned, or is close to drowning in the foreseeable future, say, the next 30 years.
But before you heave a big sigh of relief, here’s the not-so-good news: some very small islands have already drowned, and a few more will probably drown within the next couple of decades.
The islands that have drowned already are so small that many of us are unlikely to have heard of them. While these disappearances hence might not make us sit up and be alarmed, what should really concern us is that these could be the forerunners for future disappearances of much larger and more prominent islands!
Here are examples of some islands that have disappeared
Some Solomon Islands have already disappeared
The Solomon Islands, a nation made up of hundreds of islands and with a population of about 640,000, lies about 1,000 miles north-east of Australia. Many of the Solomon Islands are low-lying and prone to flooding from rising seas.
- Five tiny islands among these have disappeared due to rising seas and erosion, a discovery thought to be the first scientific confirmation of the impact of climate change on coastlines in the Pacific.
- The missing islands, ranging in size from 1 to 5 hectares (2.5-12.4 acres) were not inhabited by humans.
- The submerged islands were part of the Solomon Islands, an archipelago that over the last two decades has seen annual sea levels rise as much as 10 mm (0.4 in).
- Six other islands had large swaths of land washed into the sea and on two of those, entire villages were destroyed and people forced to relocate.
- Some more Solomon islands could disappear soon
- Source Link for the above
- Here’s a wonderful report that tells us what we are losing when we lose some Solomon Islands.
8 islands in Micronesia already gone
- A team found that some islands in Micronesia have disappeared in recent years. These islands include Kepidau en Pehleng, Nahlap, Laiap, Nahtik, and Ros.
- Source Link – Forbes, Sep 2017
Here are examples of some prominent islands that are under threat of drowning
- Kiribati Islands – Kiribati is expected to be the first country to be mostly completely submerged by the sea as a result of global warming – this is expected to happen much before the end of this century. Here’s a detailed story on Kiribati from The New York Times.
- Maldives – Maldives is one prominent island facing an uncertain future – a good part of it could be under water by end of this century!
- A few other prominent islands that could be in trouble by end of this century are Seychelles, Micronesia and Tuvalu.
What about much larger islands or major cities on the shore?
- As of 2017, there are no emphatic predictions on the effects of climate change on large islands/island nations such as Japan or the UK, or on major cities such New York. Some folks are sticking their necks out and predicting that mega cities such as Mumbai and New York (both located on sea shores) could have 25% of their area submerged by 2100. But there are very few empirical data to support these predictions. We can expect more data, analyses and inferences for these cities in the next few years.
Relevant Web Resources
An interesting topic such as this (Islands disappearing due to climate change) has, not surprisingly, a large number of web resources. I am presenting a few interesting ones from among these, and also some videos that could be eye openers.
- Drowning Islands – There’s a web site dedicated to the islands that are drowning or are seriously threatened in future. Link
- 11 Islands Threatened by Climate Change – Link
- 9 Islands Threatened by Climate Change – Link
- Island Nations Drowning Due to Climate Change – Link
- The Three Degree World – Major cities that could drown due to global warming – Link
Some Interesting Videos
A detailed video on the effect of climate change on Kiribati Islands
Another video on Kiribati
And it is not just poor countries and islands. Here’s a story on Virginia Islands, just 90 miles from Washington DC
Tuvalu – islands on the frontline of climate change
All right, now that you have learnt something about islands that have disappeared owing to global warming, you might also want to know the following:
- Is it too late to prevent the disastrous effects from climate change? – See answer
- Is global warming contributing to extreme weather events? – See answer
- Why are climate change and global warming serious problems? – See answer
- What are the harmful results from climate change and global warming? – See answer
- How are oceans affected by climate change? – See answer
Read also: My review of Bill Gates’ book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.