Climate Change, Rising Sea Levels and A Tale of Two Islands

Climate Change, Rising Sea Levels and A Tale of Two Islands

By Siegrid Raible

One of the consequences of climate change and global warming is the worldwide rise in sea levels and the effect these rising sea waters are having on island and coastal populations. To put a human face on the problem of rising sea levels I’d like to compare two island populations.

First we have the 68,000+ residents who call the Marshall Islands home. These coral atolls which make up this island nation are located near the equator in the Pacific Ocean and lie six feet above sea level. The islands, used by the United States after World War II as a testing ground for nuclear weapons, have few natural resources. Islanders earn a living in agriculture, fishing or are employed in the service industry. Due to rising sea waters Majuro, the nation’s capital and most populous island, currently experiences frequent flooding.

I live on an island; it’s called Manhattan and is part of New York City. The city is home to 8.5 million people who live and work in one of the financial capitals of the world. On
October 29, 2012 Super Storm Sandy slammed into Manhattan bringing it and much of the eastern seaboard of the United States to a standstill. A surge of sea water flooded an electrical transformer causing it to explode plunging the southern tip of Manhattan into darkness for many days. Thankfully and luckily Manhattan survived with little loss to life. The financial damage to homes, businesses and the city’s infrastructure was in the tens of millions of dollars. Remarkably, almost three years later, New York is back to business as usual.

The contrast between the impact of climate change on the Marshall Islands and Manhattan could not be starker. In February 2013 Tony deBrum, the Marshall Island’s prime minister, stated in a United Nations press conference that climate change is not only threatening the economic and social welfare of the islands’ inhabitants but is threatening the islands very existence; the islands are sinking – these islanders, with few resources, are facing homelessness. Manhattan, one of five boroughs which comprise New York City, a world capital with many resources, was able to bounce back and is exploring ways to fend off the encroaching sea. With the continued rise of sea levels millions of island and coastal residents like the Marshallese will be left homeless creating global humanitarian and security concerns; governments worldwide will be confronted with what to do with their climate refugees.

The time is now to become involved in facing the challenge of climate change including rising sea levels and its disparate impact on those least able to prepare for these new challenges. To find out more on how you can keep the pressure on our world leaders who will be meeting in Paris in December get involved. To get informed and get involved visit the following sites:

  • The People’s Climate Movement NY –
  • System Change not Climate Change –
  • 350.ORG, a Global Climate Movement –
  • 350 Local Groups:
    • Brooklyn –
    • NYC –
    • Bronx Climate Justice North –
  • Sierra Club

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *