Climate change refugees from five nations

From New Scientist, here is a short article discussing five cases of small populations forced to relocate or plan to relocate due to sea level rise, caused by climate change.

It is a little anti-intuative to think that the 15-25 cm or so rise we have observed on average over the last hundred years could affect an island, even one whose highest point is only 2.4 metres above sea level, like the Maldives.

The relevant thing to remember is that it is not pure and simple submersion of existing land that is at work, rather it is erosion accelerated by both direct and indirect means. As waves lap generally higher on shores, they wash those shores away a little. But there are contributing factors to that erosion that act as feed backs as well. The loss of coral reefs as they are either destroyed by bleaching events or other causes removes important natural breakwaters that dampen the energy of incoming tides and waves. Salt intrusion can also kill vegetation that would otherwise be acting as an anchor for soils that now wash away more easily.

This is similar to the problems faced in some Alaskan communities, only in this case it is the absence of sea ice during stormy months and thawing permafrost that has accelerated the erosion process, in some spots to as fast as 30 metres per year!

I think it is pretty safe to say that we are already seeing real examples of real people forced to move due to climate disruption.

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Salt water intrusion into ground water has also another effect: it spoils fields for growing food. The staple food in many parts of Oceania is taro, which can have long roots.

By Lassi Hippeläinen (not verified) on 10 Nov 2008 #permalink

The sea level has risen more than 300 feet since the last ice age. It would continue to rise regardless. Nature doesn't care that man chooses to live at low elevations. It will swallow those places up regardless. The wonderful thing about a high energy, high technology civilization is that we can move the populations away from those places.

We need to stop spreading the illusion that the earth would be at some kind of wonderful equilibrium forever if it wasn't for mankind. The temperature, the sea levels, and the very species of the earth have changed at an alariming rate for the entire history of the planet. The absurdity of the left and the eco fascists is that they want to tie all of this guilt on mankind so that they can leverage that guilt as power for themselves.

By Tilo Reber (not verified) on 18 Nov 2008 #permalink

"I think it is pretty safe to say that we are already seeing real examples of real people forced to move due to climate disruption."

Couldn't agree more - I don't doubt that people are moving due to climate changes. Except that your phrasing suggests that no'one has ever moved before because of climate. As this is so absurd that I can't imagine anyone thinking it to be true, I'll assume you don't mean this.

So, you are suggesting that this "climate disruption" is due to human CO2? Why didn't you say this then? You cannot even say you are sure of this, or you would have said something like "forced to move due to [human CO2 emissions]". But you didn't, and the only reason you didn't is because even you know that would not be defensible - so you instead use a new phrase "climate disruption".

So what exactly is the point of this post? Are you saying that had humans not raised CO2 levels like we have that this move would not have happened?

I suggest that anyone who reads this post and agrees with it familiarises themselves, for example, with the coral terraces on Barbados and how they provided corroboration with the Milankovitch cycles theory - the sea-levels have moved by hundreds of metres in the past, and will continure to do so unconcerned whether we are driving SUVs or not.

Tilo, just because you make an assertion does not grant it any merit. Sea levels were not rising at all until the recent warming. Have a look at this article for the old "warming started thousands of years ago" thing.

There is a very nice graph of sea level here:

As for moving populations, it is not just a matter of us all having two legs. How many Bangladeshi are you going to put up at your place?


I use the following pharses: global climate change, climate change, anthropogenic global warming, global warming, climate disruption, global heating. Unless they are qualified or clearly constrained by context to refer to past climate changes they all mean the current pronounced warming trend that began around 100 years ago and became obvious over the last thirty years and whose primary cause is multi-faceted and anthropogenic, the largest factor being CO2 emmitted into the atmosphere via fossil fuel burning.

So what exactly is the point of this post? Are you saying that had humans not raised CO2 levels like we have that this move would not have happened?


The main question is: is some or all of this rise attributable to rising CO2 levels? If we tie this rise in sea-levels to the temperature rise, we then must ask the old favourite of how much of the 20th century temperature rise is CO2 responsible for?

I thought the accepted figure was around 1.8mm per year over the last century, making it a max of around 20cm say. If we tie it to the temperature rise, not all of this 20cm could possibly be attributed to human CO2 - certainly not all or almost all of that before WW2. And I'm not saying it isn't going to cause disruption - it clearly will.

Looking at the sea-level data directly, to demonstrate how abnormal and dangerous this rise is, you can't point us to a graph with the y axis scaled to show the changes (around 150m) that you say are not relevant, when the change you aim to categorise is only 15cm or so (at best). This is 1% of the y-axis scale, which seems very likely to fall within the error bars looking at the variation between sites, and so this is not helpful.

Can you please tell me for how long before the last 100 years you deem the sea-levels to have been "constant", what the standard deviation of these constant values was ie. the approx range in which any change need not be "explained", and then show me that the rise in question - the portion of this whole century rise of 15-20 cm over one century that is attributable to human CO2 - is outside of this range. You must have already done these calculations to have come to the firm conclusion that you have.

My mistake, it's even worse than that - the change is 0.1% of the y-axis.