Climate Change Daily Repost

The case of Tuvalu

The year 2019 comes to a close in the USA with a bad case of impeachment fatigue: A dysfunctional president dealing with a dysfunctional congress. Some people are muttering about retreating to a tropical island with no news services. An idea that sounds good unless the island is in the archipelago of Tuvalu.

Tuvalu is a tiny nation of 11,000 people crowded onto nine small islands with about 26 square kilometers of livable land. However, two of the nine islands are in the process of disappearing. So, the nation finds itself on the margins of climate change

The majority of usable land on the islands is only several meters above the ocean, and sea-level rise along with coastal erosion steadily reduces the amount of livable real estate.  Also, saltwater intrusion related to increasing sea levels encroaches yearly on the fragile freshwater aquifers for these islands, rendering traditional farming almost useless. Reliance on imported food is the norm, and thus the future looks bleak for this small, impoverished nation.

Old problems

The problems Tuvalu faces are not new ones. Recent work at an archeological site off the coast of Israel uncovered the earliest known example of a sea wall. A wall that appears designed to keep back the rising tides. At a location that is currently several meters underwater, a Neolithic community battled the seas by building a 100-meter-long wall of boulders at the water’s edge. 

Our ancestors fought and lost this battle about 7,000 years ago. Fast forward to today, and we spend hundreds of billions of dollars fighting the rising tides in coastal cities around the world. Moving a Neolithic village to a new location is one thing, but moving New Orleans or Venice is a more daunting task.

The underlying problem with some aspects of climate change is that we can delay, but not prevent. Levees in New Orleans have long protected a city with an average elevation that is below sea level.  Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that the levees only hold back mother nature for so long. If sea levels continue rising, then the question is not: Will New Orleans submerge under the ocean? The only question is: When?


Climate change at the margins (Source: ArcheanWeb) – Also:

Saltwater invades Florida’s water supplies (Source: ArcheanWeb) – Also:


‘One day we’ll disappear’: Tuvalu’s sinking islands (Eleanor Ainge Roy – The Guardian) – Also:

Ancient humans tried to defend against rising seas. They failed. (Maddie Bender – Vice) – Also:

Feature Image: Tuvalu Flag – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

William House
William is an earth scientist and writer with an interest in providing the science "backstory" for breaking environmental, earth science, and climate change news.