Current climate change models predict rising sea levels swallowing entire cities and displacing millions of people by the end of the 21st century.
The rapid melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica due to the continuous emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere could add more than two meters to the world's oceans. This could leave coastal cities, including New York, permanently flooded.
However, the human race does not need to wait decades before the effects of climate change become apparent.
Three Islands Disappear Due to Rising Sea Levels
In the past year, three islands have already disappeared. In the summer of 2018, scientists discovered that Perlamutrovy, a small island in the Russian Arctic archipelago, is gone. In October. an 11-acre island in Hawaii was washed away by category 5 Hurricane Walaka. A few days later, a local newspaper revealed that an islet off the coast of Japan has sunk underwater.
All three islands were small and uninhabitable. However, experts warned that larger islands are not safe from rising sea levels.
"With some of these small islands, maybe it's no big deal to the average person because they're uninhabited, but you're going to see these same processes happen on larger islands and populated ones," explained Curt Storlazzi, a geologist at the U.S. Geologic Survey's Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, in a recent story published by NBC News. "If sea levels continue to rise as projected, there's going to be even greater change," he added.
Kiribati, an island nation in the Pacific, is also losing some of its lands to the ocean. Former president Anote Tong recounted memories of Tebunginako, a once thriving village. He told NBC News that in the 70s, the water started to move closer to the houses. Now, only a church is visible above the water when the tide comes in.
Tong, who has witnessed his people retreat from rising sea levels, has since been outspoken about the "existential threat of climate change."
"In the near future, communities may have to relocate," he stated. "When it hits you directly, it's very difficult for you to deny it."
Sea Levels Rising Much Faster Than Predicted
A recent study estimated that about 1.79 million square kilometers of lands (that is about three times the size of California) would be lost to the sea by 2100. The scenario was described as "catastrophic" by the study authors and it would have huge implications around the world.
Much of the land losses will be those that are important in the production of food, such as the delta of the Niles. Places like Bangladesh would no longer be safe to live in.
The authors, however, emphasized that there is still a chance to prevent sea level from rising and engulfing inhabited islands. If the world dramatically cuts the emission of greenhouse gasses, these kinds of scenarios could be avoided.