- May 15, 2019 at 7:08 pm #1152MarineBioKeymaster
With crystal clear blue waters and white sandy beaches, the Solomon Islands are one of the most stunning and remote parts of the Pacific Ocean.
But despite the archipelago’s isolation, it’s no stranger to the unforgiving impacts of climate change: the island paradise is drowning.
Tonight, Liam Bartlett goes on a confronting journey to the front line of global warming.
In the past 20 years, sea levels in the Solomon Islands have risen over 15 centimetres. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s led to many islands losing critical land mass. Others have disappeared completely.
Sceptics say the vanishing islands occur as a result of natural erosion, but Bartlett reports that’s not the case. The remnants of 300-year-old trees which once stood tall, but are now all but drowning, prove the point.
Renowned marine ecologist Dr Simon Albert agrees.
He’s been studying the effects of climate change and sea level rises in the Solomon Islands for years and has seen the devastating impact of climate change on the small nation.
“It’s just mind-blowing really,” he says.
“These are permanent islands that have been on these reef platforms for at least the last few hundred years.”
“The rates of change we’ve seen over the last 20 years are unprecedented in that history.”
For these islands and the people who call them home, climate change is not an abstract notion.
They’ve not only witnessed the sea rising, but also endured many more extreme weather events. Their land is shrinking before their eyes.
“These people are on the front line, Liam,” says Dr Albert.
“We talk a lot about the impacts of sea level on islands, and vegetation and the environment but the human element to it is so critical.
“These people are literally facing it on a day-to-day basis.”
The sea level rise that’s drowning the Solomon Islands occurs both because of climate change and because of trade winds physically pushing water into this part of the Pacific.
Of the 33 islands Dr Albert has studied, a third have either partially sunk or disappeared altogether.
On 60 Minutes he warns that if humans continue to ignore climate change, it won’t just be the Solomon Islands, but the whole world that’ll end up in deep water.
“We need to start to take these climate pressures seriously,” he tells Bartlett.
“We’ve got irrefutable evidence that the next 100 years is going to see up to a metre of sea level rise globally.”
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