Posts Tagged ‘sea level rise’

This Sept. 29, 2009 photo shows Albert Naquin, the chief of the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha indians, answering a question on Isle de Jean Charles, La. Holdouts in the hurricane-damaged Indian village refuse to give in to urges from a tribal chief, scientists and public officials to relocate inland, despite frequent floods and disappearing marshland that brings the Gulf of Mexico closer every year.  (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

Albert Naquin, chief of the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha (Sept. 29, 2009, AP Photo/Bill Haber)

The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians are not strangers to the idea of forced migration. As a consequence of the Indian Removal Act of the 1830s, the tribe’s ancestors moved to the Isle de Jean Charles.  Almost two hundred years after, they are being forced to move again as a result of climate change.

To address this issue, the federal government has provided 48 million dollars in order to move a majority of the island’s population of 85 people. Although the federal government has provided grants totaling one billion dollars for thirteen states, funding for “climate change refugees” is unprecedented.

The results of this program are fundamental in providing a potential blueprint for future resettlements resulting from climate change.  It is estimated that 13.1 million Americans living seaside might face flooding as a result of rising sea levels. The issue of resettlement is complicated in itself. The issue in Isle de Jean Charles, however, is particularly complex because of the need to preserve what remains of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indian community.

Isle DeJean Charles - photo by Karen Apricot

Isle DeJean Charles – photo by Karen Apricot

The story of the Isle de Jean Charles is particularly intriguing because of just how severe the ramifications of climate change combined with the increased rate of natural land loss due to the construction of dams and oil drilling. Isle de Jean Charles has lost 98% of its territory. Furthermore, frequent flooding and hurricanes have made farming impossible, contributing to the outward migration that has been occurring since 1955. The ones that have stayed behind despite worsening conditions, however, are strongly attached to their land, raising the broader question of how resettlement be carried out if the population in peril, refuses to move.

The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians have voted twice before against resettlement. The issue of resettlement came up in 2002 when the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), which had originally planned to include the Isle de Jean Charles in Gulf Hurricane Protection System, decided the cost and benefit did not add up. Because of the Isle’s remote location and relatively low economic value, ACE did not see the benefit. Instead, they offered the locals a plan of resettlement which, lacking unanimous support from the locals, were not implemented.

The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians certainly won’t be the last U.S. climate refugees. In Alaska, more than 180 villages are currently directly affected by melting ice glaciers. A village called Newtok, according to Army Corps of Engineers is expected to be under water by next year. The locals, Eskimos, have been noticing the sinking for twenty years now and have been slowly rebuilding their community further inland. However, just as can be seen with the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians, the effect displacement will have on a community so intimately connected to its land, given that they live off of it, is yet to be seen. Newtok, Alaska is one of many locations under the danger of going underwater. Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay and Quinault Indian Nation on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula are undergoing a similar catastrophe.

As part of the legacy he wants to leave on the issue of climate change, President Obama should ask Congress to set aside special funding for the next wave of climate refugees.


Read Full Post »

In an article by Concierge.com, a travel focused online publication, they selected seven beach destinations around the world in danger of disappearing forever due to forces such as erosion, pollution, rising sea levels, reckless overdevelopment, and sand mining, with a caution that there are hundreds more.  If we don’t curb global warming, insist on sustainable development, and protect the world’s beaches against pollution and mismanagement, the idyllic shorelines we cherish will be preserved only in memory.

Of the seven, the beaches of the Maldives are the most imminently threatened by rising sea levels as a result of global warming.

The Maldives
With postcard-ready beaches, unblemished coral reefs, and some of the world’s most luxurious resorts, the Maldives are for many a once-in-a-lifetime destination. But the island nation’s own lifetime may itself be cut drastically short: Rising sea levels all but doom this string of 26 low-lying atolls in the Indian Ocean, unless the rest of the world acts — quickly — to curb global warming.

With an average elevation of just four feet, the Maldives may, according to some scientists’ models, be submerged before the end of the century. Other coastal geologists believe that the islands, which are composed principally of coral, can regenerate more quickly than the water level rises, and that wave action can build up the islands. But rising ocean temperatures — another symptom of global warming — inhibit coral growth, and few Maldivians seem prepared to sit back and take that chance. President Mohamed Nasheed has committed the Maldives to becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral nation by 2020, by building a wind farm to meet 40 percent of the electricity demand; installing 5 million square feet of solar panels; recycling agricultural waste as fertilizer; and asking foreign visitors to buy carbon credits. Valiant as these efforts may be, they are unlikely to stem the (literal) tide, so Nasheed is also searching for a new homeland in case the entire population is forced to relocate.

If you go: The Marine Lab at the Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru resort does serious scientific research on marine ecology, coral recovery, and endangered species. Guests can visit the lab and join biologists on dives.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

Read Full Post »

Happy 2009, everyone.

Imagine my surprise when I see the new issue of The Economist, now talking about the major problems global warming will be creating called The Curse of Carbon.  When even The Economist is coming around on global warming, it seems like things might be changing on the climate change debate.  Who’s next?  The Free Republic?

From the article:

Copyright The Economist 2009

If the seas continue to become less alkaline at the current rate, the time will soon come when reefs will start to lose coral faster through erosion than they gain it through calcification. How soon? Some scientists think it could be in 60 or 70 years. Many fear that half the world’s coral will be gone by 2030.

The Arctic has lost over 40% of its year-round ice since 1985, 14% in 2004-05 alone. This will not do much directly to raise sea levels, because most Arctic ice is floating, but it suggests that the melting is speeding up, and that is confirmed by the flow of the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland, which doubled in speed between 1997 and 2003.

Everything depends on the speed at which the ice disappears. Computer models have been predicting that the Arctic will not be ice-free, even for a short time in late summer, until 2040, and at present only icebreakers and the occasional lone yachtsman are getting through. But some people believe change is coming so fast that the northern seas will open up much earlier than expected. They may be right.

If so, it will be seen as a harbinger of a another horror: the prospect of a shutdown of the North Atlantic conveyor. This is the current of water that takes enormous amounts of heat—about as much as would be generated by a million nuclear power plants—from the tropics and carries it to eastern North America and western Europe. The fear is that melting ice, along with increased snow and rain, could reduce the density and salinity of the top layers of the sea, making them more buoyant. At present, the conveyor depends on surface water sinking and travelling towards the equator, there to rise again and bring warmth back to the north (see map in the introduction). If this current stopped, the average temperature in Europe might fall by five to ten degrees Celsius.

They even have a video of the ice melt and the major problems that melting arctic sea ice will create.

Read Full Post »

An 8 mile chunk of ice broke off from the arctic icecap according to satellite photos of the region. This is truly disturbing as we come closer to a summer where the Arctic icecap completely disappears. The ice cap is not only an indicator of global warming, but a feedback mechanism as well: ice reflects heat and without our “white cap” the ocean and surrounding land will absorb more heat, increasing the greenhouse effect significantly.

We must immediately work to change the trajectory of our greenhouse gas emissions so that we don’t do any further damage. Otherwise we will very soon face an arctic with no ice. This would lead to more and faster global warming, sea level rise of several feet from other land-based glacier melt, and a severe threat to our water supplies, agriculture, and way of life.

Read Full Post »