The island that will become a swamp in less than 30 years due to climate change




No tree survives on the island of Tangier. Located in the Chesapeake Bay (Virginia, USA), the intrusion of salt water has turned most of the land in a swamp. The rise in sea level, driven by climate change, will leave no habitable land in less than 30 years, expelling the little more than 400 citizens that still remain, according to a new study published this Monday in ‘Frontiers in Climate’ .

The inhabitants of this island would be among the first climatic refugees from the continental United States. Greenhouse gas emissions have continued to grow, warming the planet and exacerbating effects such as rising sea levels, torrential rains or heat waves. “We have not done enough to tackle the crisis” global warming, former US President Barack Obama said today at the Climate Summit (COP26) held in Glasgow. “We are nowhere near where we should be.”

The island of Tangier does not have much time left. Since 1967 has lost 62% of the land habitable. In the enclave it is normal to see gardens and paths turned into swampy wetlands. «Our study shows that rising sea levels has already had a severe impact in a small town in America. Soon, these Americans, inhabitants of the last isolated fishing community in Virginia, will become refugees from climate change, forced to relocate, “says the study’s lead author, David Schulte, from the College of William and Mary (USA). .

There are hardly any neighbors left. This city’s population on the U.S. Register of Historic Places has shrunk from more than 1,100 in the early 1900s to 436 in 2020. The houses there date from 1930, there is hardly any mobile coverage and no alcohol is sold. Its inhabitants live off the capture of the blue crab, which is later consumed in restaurants in Washington DC and along the eastern coast of Maryland.

But according to the researchers’ calculations, in the next 15 to 30 years, the rest of the habitable land will be lost. The island will become a swamp and, according to the authors, the population will reach zero by the year 2053. In their opinion, despite the fact that the population decline can not only be attributed to rising sea levels, many of the Social problems faced by the city, such as the lack of land for commercial or residential use, are related to sea level.

Relocating the city doesn’t seem like an option either. The study estimates that fully protecting and restoring the city would cost approximately between 250 and 350 million dollars (215 to 302 million euros). “Our study shows that the impacts of sea level rise in the US are already severe in some areas, even forcing people to relocate, something most Americans don’t realize about (mainly due to misinformation ), ”Concludes Schulte.

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