It’s a small nation in the Pacific Ocean. It’s called Tuvalu. They’re preparing for the worst-case scenario: total submersion of their territory. Tuvalu is the country that is sinking beneath the waters.
Islands haunted by water
Tuvalu has nine small islands. It is approximately 4,000 km from Australia and Hawaii. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji.
“It is a low-lying island nation. The highest point above sea level is 4 meters.” explained Minister Simon Kofe. The country is 26 square kilometers, home to about 12,000 people.
“We live on very thin strips of land. In some areas you can see the ocean on both sides. On one side the open ocean and on the other side a lagoon,” Kofe said. “As the sea level rises we see the erosion of parts of the island.”
Tuvalu has also been facing stronger cyclones and periods of drought. Ocean water is seeping under the ground in certain areas. This affects the aquifers. There are few groundwater wells. “We basically rely only on rainwater.” The penetration of saline water has also rendered land unusable for agriculture. The salinity in the sand makes it very difficult to grow anything.
The annual rate of global sea level rise is growing at an alarming rate. It tripled between 1901 and 2018, now standing at 3.7 mm per year.
The numbered days
The situation is worse in the Pacific Islands region. Morgan Wairiu, a climate change expert, says from the Solomon Islands. “In the South Pacific, the average sea level rise was 5 to 11 mm per year in the period 1900 to 2018.” It’s a horrendous prospect for Tuvalu.
Every rise in sea level increases the potential extent and depth of sea flooding. Sea levels are predicted to rise by one metre by 2100. Tuvalu, the country sinking beneath the waters, has its days numbered.
It’s the stark reality of climate change. Drastic global action is urgently needed. Already Tuvalu is looking for other ways forward. “The worst-case scenario is that we are forced to relocate. Our islands would be completely submerged under the ocean,” Kofe said. “Under international law, a country can only have a maritime zone if it has land territory to draw it from.”
It seems to be inevitable. Only a miracle would save Tuvalu. But we wouldn’t recommend buying property there, just in case.