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Inhabited island disappears off the face of the map: climate change casualty

The Independent’s environment editor Geoffrey Lean reports that climate change has claimed its first wholesale victim, the previously inhabited (population: 10, 000) island of Lohachara near India.

Disappearing world: Global warming claims tropical island

For the first time, an inhabited island has disappeared beneath rising seas.

Independent | 24 December 2006

pollutionbenheine.jpgRising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India’s part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.

As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.

© Benjamin Heine

Eight years ago, as exclusively reported in The Independent on Sunday, the first uninhabited islands – in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati – vanished beneath the waves. The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, have been evacuated as a precaution, but the land still juts above the sea. The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented.

It has been officially recorded in a six-year study of the Sunderbans by researchers at Calcutta’s Jadavpur University. So remote is the island that the researchers first learned of its submergence, and that of an uninhabited neighbouring island, Suparibhanga, when they saw they had vanished from satellite pictures.

Two-thirds of nearby populated island Ghoramara has also been permanently inundated. Dr Sugata Hazra, director of the university’s School of Oceanographic Studies, says “it is only a matter of some years” before it is swallowed up too. Dr Hazra says there are now a dozen “vanishing islands” in India’s part of the delta. The area’s 400 tigers are also in danger.

Until now the Carteret Islands off Papua New Guinea were expected to be the first populated ones to disappear, in about eight years’ time, but Lohachara has beaten them to the dubious distinction.

Human cost of global warming: Rising seas will soon make 70,000 people homeless

Refugees from the vanished Lohachara island and the disappearing Ghoramara island have fled to Sagar, but this island has already lost 7,500 acres of land to the sea. In all, a dozen islands, home to 70,000 people, are in danger of being submerged by the rising seas.

10 comments on “Inhabited island disappears off the face of the map: climate change casualty

  1. Curtis
    29 December, 2006

    Very interesting, very sad. I remember reading about some South Pacific islands which are also said to be in great jeopardy.

    Why is it that [misplaced] fear is such a strong motivator for so many Americans in regards to “fighting terrorism,” but not at all in such potentially catastrophic matters as this?

  2. peoplesgeography
    29 December, 2006

    Indeed, and it’ll be denial, fear-mongering and an insistence upon business-as-usual from the usual quarters for a good while yet as you and I know. We’re all potentially Easter Earth Islanders (or, in this case, residents of Atlantis which may or may not have been mythical), but the tide is turning … an unfortunate metaphor to use, eh?

  3. Pingback: Breaking the Ice - Canada’s Languishing Shelves « Can’t See the Forest

  4. Mike Fijne
    2 July, 2007

    You have to laugh at these doomsday scenarios regarding those islands. First of all islands are not the same i.e. geological and tectonic context are important to assess the stability of an emerged piece of land. Vanuatu is in a seismic zone which means that the tectonic activity can sink or raise depending where it is islands. Recent quakes along indonesia have raised the elevation of islands and exposed coral reefs. The WWF guy was crying indeed about those lost reefs… which was hilarious given the fact that the present reefs were the result of the adaptation of coral colonies to previous tectonic sollicitations, therefore entirely natural occurrences.
    As for the island in the massive delta of Ganges, anyone knows that subsidence, listric faulting, and submarine slides can alter dramatically the profile of such an unstable, huge delta. Combine this with whatever strong fetch coming from the lower latitudes and you could have devastating effects on these low lying emerged bodies.
    But the articles prefer the doomsday scenario, the fearmongering and that makes you happy: you can blame it on the western world development, the CO2 and the goracle predictions.
    Add the 400 tigers and the picture is perfect… Climate change is natural and it is not because you start noticing it that it never happened before!

  5. peoplesgeography
    2 July, 2007

    Thanks for your comment Mike, I am not a climate change specialist but will be spurred on to learn more because of your skepticism, much appreciated.

  6. 99
    2 July, 2007

    The essential thing to know is that nearly 100% of the science says that humans contributed to this climate change and that humans can do things to forestall it, and mitigate our own damages considerably. So Mike’s “skepticism” seems like a particularly pernicious form of pusillanimity to me.

  7. peoplesgeography
    2 July, 2007

    Wise statement 99, even if climate change was entirely natural, enacting more sustainable measures such as renewable energies and local production can only help our biosphere to better sustain human life. I invite Mike’s rejoinder to learn about the basis for climate change skepticism in the face of scientific consensus that human industrial activity is altering the environment in undesirable and potentially irreversible ways. Is it a political “perfect storm” upon which a neocon agenda or more centralised, draconian measures are enacted? What are your thoughts about why so many climate specialists are worried?

  8. Mike Fijne
    2 July, 2007

    I would advise “Says” to read the lates book by Professor Claude Allegre “Ma verite sur la Planete”. Consensus is not always synonymous of truth in science. Alfred Wegener, a meteorologist came up with the idea of Continental drift but at the time the leading geophysicists made calculations “proving” that this would be impossible. Wegener was chastisized by the entire sceintific community… fastforward, Vine and Matthews, seafloor spreading, and in the late 60’s the Plate tectonics explained our globe’s dynamics with new observations and of course Wegener ideas were back, modified but recognized. The leading scientists who shot him down back in the 30s made the wrong assumption in their calculations…
    Climate change has occured forever and occured in the past 1000 years naturally, swinging back and forth. The LSCE, a leading lab in France is saying that computer modelling do not have the resolution to explain the past Little Ice Age that occured between 1300 and 1800 following the optimum of the Middle Age. Past interglacial and glacial periods records have revealed brutal variations of temperatures at the 10 to 20 years scale, from up to +10 or -10 degrees, which is considerable compared to the 0.6 degrees observed recently. Of course if these computer models cannot reconstruct the past, how could they be deemed reliable to predict the future? Interestingly enough scientists who are familiar with the history of our Earth tend to be extremely cautious with statements that suggest the past cannot explain what happens now… The debate is not over, because that would be a first in science where by nature, problems can be revisited. In fact Nobel prize winner Prof. Mario Molina -who discovered the ozone layer hole in the 80s- demonstrated that pollution from Asian factories did modify the circulation patterns in North Pacific inducing storms in the west coast of Canada. That is pollution and its effects, that’s not Global Warming. Danish team has shown this year that not only solar cycles do influence the amount of energy received by the Earth but also the strength of solar winds is key to deflecting high energy articles coming from supernovae explosions. The amount of these particles reaching Earth atmosphere is linked to the nucleation of clouds and the size of global cloud coverage, that in turn regulates the temperature. The observations of warming on Mars by other scientist suggest a much bigger driver thata local one for those phenomenons.
    So I don’t subscribe to the hysteria and fearmongering, especially when “belief” is substituted to rational analysis. You can demonstrate all your life against subduction zones and earthquakes, it won’t change the Earth’s geodynamics. However, building houses that resist to seisms and map the dangerous faults is very well spent resources…
    Finally and as a tongue in cheek comment, I noticed that journalists and politicians received the lower marks from polls asking which profession people trust the most. It is quite ironic this is those very people who seem to be invested with the task to save the world by the “believers”…

  9. peoplesgeography
    2 July, 2007

    Thanks for the rejoinder, Mike.

    You write: “The debate is not over, because that would be a first in science where by nature, problems can be revisited.”

    I certainly would agree with that, the case can never really be closed and its an ongoing public and scientific investigation. You also write:

    “In fact Nobel prize winner Prof. Mario Molina -who discovered the ozone layer hole in the 80s- demonstrated that pollution from Asian factories did modify the circulation patterns in North Pacific inducing storms in the west coast of Canada. That is pollution and its effects, that’s not Global Warming.”

    That’s an important distinction to disentangle here — the article featured above does only deal with one aspect of climate change, which is global warming. You seem to implicitly accept that other forms of climate change that are caused by humans in your example. A key question is whether those effects are large or severe enough in scale to cause wider and undesirable consequences.

    Personally, I’m still learning as much as I can on this one and appreciate the alternate case being made.

  10. Mike Fijne
    2 July, 2007

    Amalgamation leads to caricature and extreme positions that as usual are unhelpful.

    Reducing human development’s impact on the planet should accompany development. Molina’s demonstration shows the opportunity for us or China or India to develop and encourage ways to reduce or eliminate the soot and aerosols generated by these factories and ours.
    By the way Allegre also insist in the management of the water cycle on the planet…

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This entry was posted on 27 December, 2006 by in Climate Change, Ecology, Middle East.

Timely Reminders

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-- Aldous Huxley

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