If overwash becomes too severe, populations will have to consider relocating to a different island or perhaps a different country. This would mean giving up not only their land, but also a major part of their lifestyle and identity.
"Relocation is not an option, because forced relocation is telling us you no longer have a country," said Tony deBrum, minister in assistance to the president of the Marshall Islands, at an event in New York earlier this year.
Coral reefs, which can grow at a rate of up to 1 centimeter per year, can protect low-lying islands and bolster their foundations to keep them above sea water. But the USGS study notes that vertical coral accretion is an order of magnitude smaller than expected sea-level rise through 2100. Coral growth has also been stunted by ocean acidification and thermal bleaching caused by climate change.
With no way to move up, moving out might be some island people's only option.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500