Will the Pacific Islands be swallowed by the sea?

Will the Pacific Islands be swallowed by the sea?

By María Álvarez Pérez, Sustainability Editor, Mona

 

Still today there are many people who continue to deny the existence of global warming, or at least, human’s responsibility concerning this issue. Among the most skeptical countries, Australia leads the list (with 17% of deniers), followed by Norway (15%), New Zealand (13%) and the United States (12%). These data belong to a survey conducted by the University of Tasmania.

 

However, the population from the Pacific Islands know this crisis well. The water level of its seas is rising about four times faster than the world average, contaminating groundwater, poisoning arable land and swallowing inhabited islets. This is today a reality to the point that five islands, in the north of the archipelago of the Solomon Islands, have already been completely submerged under water.

 

Mona Surfing

   

These five islands of the Pacific: Kale, Rapita, Rehana, Kakatina and Zollies, had an area of between 1 and 5 hectares. Six others have already lost more than 20% of their surface. This phenomenon is suffered equally by the inhabitants of archipelagos such as Vanuatu, Kiribati or the Maldives, who live with the idea that their countries will end up sinking completely.

 

Vero Islands

 

 

Despite the fact that, according to several studies, the trade winds are an important factor, climate change continues to play a leading role in all hypotheses.

 

So what are the main causes? The first one is thermal expansion: water, when heated by the rise in temperature, tends to expand, that is, the oceans occupy more space. In addition, the melting of the frozen territories of Greenland and West Antarctica is accelerated by global warming. This process is negatively influenced by the filtration of fresh water from the surface, which acts as a lubricant for the ice streams and helps them to slide more quickly. That is, the fresh water filtered to the base of the ice sheets melts, weakens and slides into the sea.

 

Sunset

 

 

Finally, in a similar type of process, large ice formations in the form of glaciers and polar ice caps melt without returning to their normal form. Usually these gigantic frozen structures partially melt during the summer, but recover their solid state when the winter temperatures return. Now, because of global warming, snowfalls are softer, winters are delayed and springs are ahead, so that ice does not rejoin in the same form nor quantity. In addition, warming of the oceans increases the likelihood of tropical cyclones and other natural disasters, which are occurring with an intensity never before seen.

 

The disappearance of the Pacific Islands themselves is, by far, not the only consequence of this phenomenon. Underwater, the situation is also worsening: coral bleaching, the result of increased water temperatures, is putting entire ecosystems at risk. Corals harbor 30% of all marine species, which would lead to an unprecedented ecological catastrophe.

 

Coral Reefs

 

 

Are we going to continue ignoring a reality that will affect millions of people around the world and destroy our ecosystem? It's time to open our eyes, to face the situation and to be part of the change.

 

 

By María Álvarez Pérez, Sustainability Editor, Mona

 

María Álvarez Pérez