Rising sea levels threaten every coastline in the world, but the areas most at risk are islands—they’re pretty much all coastline. The several feet of sea level rise predicted over the course of this century would be enough to make more than a thousand islands uninhabitable.
The Marshall Islands, a chain in the western Pacific, have a strategy to keep themselves above water: simply make the land a bit higher.
The Marshall Islands is a collection of 29 atolls in the Pacific, and is home to around 70,000 people. On average, the Marshalls sit about 6.5 feet above sea level. The homes of nearly all of the country’s inhabitants could disappear with just a few feet of warming. So the government must do something to prevent 70,000 people from turning into climate refugees. Short of stopping global climate change all by themselves, it seems like the only solution is to build the islands higher.
A new announcement from the president of the Marshall Islands cements this approach as official policy. “Raising our islands is a daunting task but one that must be done,” said President Hilda Heine in an interview with the Marshall Islands Journal.
Just how in the heck are they going to do that? Raising dozens of islands by several feet is extremely expensive. And raising elevation has never been attempted on this scale before. The Marshalls, and the handful of other island nations in the same boat, aren’t exactly sure how this is supposed to happen.
Fortunately, the Marshalls have a few decades to figure out a strategy and implement it before rising sea levels make their whole population homeless. If they manage to figure out an approach that actually works, it could be used as a template for other countries who are struggling with vulnerable coastlines. The Marshalls could not only save their own population, but millions of people around the world.
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics