The Marshall Islands and Global Warming

marshall islands

This year marks the 70th anniversary of WWII’s D-Day, and countries such as the U.K., France and the U.S. will pay their respects to the slain war-heroes and veterans who were a part of the Allied Forces. Nature, instead, seems to have a different take on the war. Global warming has caused the Pacific Ocean to rise and inundate the Marshall Islands, washing graves ashore the coastline of the region that witnessed fierce fighting during WWII.

France saw some of Europe’s biggest political and royal figures gather in Normandy to pay their respects and commemorate the 70th anniversary of the  D-Day landings while the Marshall Islands reported a memorial of the gory kind. Tony de Brum, minister of Foreign Affairs, Marshall Islands, reported that the skeletal remains of 26 possible Japanese soldiers were washed ashore Santo Isle. Voicing serious concerns about the issue at the UN climate negotiations in Bonn, de Brum said that because coffins and graves were washed away due to the rise in tides, it effects the communities who call the island home. The spring tides that started at the end of February and April inundated and flooded the living space of the communities, leaving the regular land unusable.

With global warming causing a sharp increase in sea levels, these comments drew focus to the future for islands below sea level. With over 1000 isles and 70,000 people, Marshall Island is 2 meters at its highest, de Brum said. It is reported that the tropical western Pacific experiences a four-fold increase in the global average rate of sea-level increase. This means that on the Marshall Islands, global warming increased the level by 12mm a year during the past 16 years, an alarming rate compared to the global average of 3.2mm annually. The UN projected an estimated increase of 98cm from the current average of 26mm with the turn of the century.

Discussing relocation options, de Brum says there was really no option. The communities who traditionally settled along the coastline had no option but to move to the inner parts of the islands. The move would help in the long run, since the move to the inner parts of the isles exposes them to the shores on the other side, taking them back to square one. The Marshall Islands, once a Japanese naval base, was the base that launched the ill-fated attack on Pearl Harbor. It is still unclear if the skeletal remains belonged to the Japanese. There were no signs of war wounds. The U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor is testing the remains to identify them and eventually return them to Japan, but that will have to wait until September because they need to wait on the Japanese team for help.

De Brum said that almost 300 meters of land was eaten away by the tides from the capital island Majuro. A bomb on the runway, a WWII ordinance and beat roads connecting the isles have been discovered. The roads were damaged beyond repair, leaving cars to drive over the reefs that add to the natural beauty of the isles. Boken, a small island, was washed away too, now sitting silently under the waves of the Pacific Ocean. With a very fragile ecosystem, the damage inundated salt can cause to the land without rainfall may cause severe damages. Recovery is highly doubtful, since the island is losing its flora and is being swept into oblivion by the strong winds and even stronger tides. The skeletons from WWII that washed along the shore are the least of the problems global warming will bring to the Marshall Islands.

By Rathan Paul Harshavardan.

The Sydney Morning Herald

8 Responses to "The Marshall Islands and Global Warming"

  1. robinsoncaruso1Kimo   June 16, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    CLIMATE CHANGE, HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH HUMANS………The ANSWER is both complex, and simple, axis tilt….north pole is gone……solar index is way up [sun gamma rays extreme] ASK NASA, you wont get an answer, but ask them……..Disprove what im about to wont be able to. The sun [you know that thing in the sky that used to be yellow but is now bright white} As A long time resident of Hawaii, college educated so cal, im watching somthing so simple, yet so telling. The sun is now setting to the RIGHT of Oahu, as seen from Maui, on top of Haleakala, I did my homework before I dared to speak. AXIS tilt, and, its not over, as well as solar anomalies, welcome to the end of the 12000 year cycle.

    • ReduceGHGs   June 17, 2014 at 6:05 pm

      Ask NASA? They certainly don’t agree with you. They understand fully that humans are the cause of the warming trend. There’s no reasonable doubt. Go back and re-do your homework because you’re failing to research the issue properly.

      • robinsoncaruso1Kimo   June 17, 2014 at 8:11 pm

        As I said, respectfully, DISPROOF me, one cant, but I can prove the axis tilt, as far as my homework, this IS what i do. For 11 years now, refractors, telescopes, and my physical location. I signed no non discloser. As I said, the sun now sets to the right of the island of Oahu, that is fact. The solar index today, is 16, humidity 51. That in itself, is an anomaly. [for my geo location} Your correct, NASA and I don’t get along. Why do I try…….never mind believe what they tell you, im too old to go though this AGAIN.

        • ReduceGHGs   June 18, 2014 at 7:17 am

          For we laymen, the proof is in what the studies and all the respected institutions have concluded. If you had support for your opinion (other than your words) you would have provided it. Read what the folks at NASA, NAS, AIP, and other scientific bodies have been saying for years. Among the informed, those willing to think critically about the issue, there’s no reasonable doubt; humans are warming the planet and the consequences are not good.

  2. aallison   June 8, 2014 at 10:04 am

    As @jf2good points out, the sea level has not been rising four times as fast in the Marshall Islands (or any other specific location). A moments thought tells us that this is simply impossible. Three-quarters of the apparent rise is due to sinking, which has absolutely nothing to do with temperature.

    • ReduceGHGs   June 8, 2014 at 10:18 am

      This isn’t the only article about the loss of graves, homes, and farmland due to raising seas resulting from human-caused climate change. They’re easy to find. There’s no doubt that sea levels are on the way up and will continue to rise for generations to come. This article noted “12mm a year during the past 16 years” for the Marshall Islands. I’m not surprised as it is expected that sea level raise will not be globally uniform.

  3. ReduceGHGs   June 8, 2014 at 8:51 am

    No doubt we’ll be seeing more and more articles about the consequences of climate change. It’s global, it’s here now, and the effects will only increase especially if we continue to use the atmosphere as if it were an endless waste disposal site.

    Join the efforts to change. Contact your members of Congress. Too many that hold seats obstruct all efforts to reduce emissions. They reject reality and put our future generations at risk.


  4. James Alias (@jf2good)   June 8, 2014 at 7:29 am

    We have the Global Warming skeptics that point to a cold winter as an example of no climate change and on the opposite scale we have stories like this saying Global Warming aka Climate Change is too blame. The Marshall Islands have been sinking forever since they were formed, it is the natural process of volcanic atolls to appear and disappear. Sea level has been rising since the end to the last ice age. You can’t take this one story to prove anything about global warming. We have climate change all the time, yes I am not disputing man’s impact on the climate, I am just saying you can’t prove that man’s impact on the climate caused this.

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