Fiji comprises 332 islands and has a large coastline that spans 1129 kilometers. Since 1993, the higher than average rate of sea level rise has made many of the islands uninhabitable. Those that remain are slowly but surely losing ground to the ocean, and their population needs to decide on whether to endure or flee.
Earth.Org takes a closer look.
Suve, the capital of Fiji, is one of the largest urban centers and economic hubs in the South Pacific region. The Fijian economy is based primarily on tourism and the export of sugar cane with other activities including gold mining, fishing, and timber production. Continuous sea level rise has begun disrupting coastal activity, and will negatively impact Fiji socio-economic status in the next few decades.
Besides the economic loss, precious land is being reclaimed by the sea. Research shows that 4.5% of all the existing buildings in Fiji will be inundated by as little as 22 cm sea level rise, up to 6.2% with 63 cm rise. Considering the higher-end predictions of 1 to 2 meters by 2100, Fiji must prepare to move critical infrastructures like ports and hospitals to safer locations, and protect their freshwater reserves as saltwater threatens to contaminate their aquifers.
Officials intend to fight back through progressive relocation for communities at risk, coastal revegetation and seawalls. Hopefully, this will buy enough time to lay out a long-term solution.
Earth.Org has mapped what extreme flooding could look like in Fiji by 2100 as a call for awareness.
Global mean sea level is projected to rise by 2m at the end of this century. However, in order to determine local sea level rise (SLR), one has to take into account local coastal flood levels which could be 2.8m above Mean Higher-High Water (MHHW) at extreme forecasts. These local levels bring variability to the projected SLR from 1m to 6.5m (eg. Rio vs Kolkata).
The SLR scenarios used in this study are based on the forecasts from Climate Central – Coastal Risk Screening Tool with the following parameters:
- Sea level Projection Source
- Coastal Flood Level
- Pollution Scenario
Sea level Projection Source:
From two highly cited journals by Kopp et al., estimating SLR mainly due to ocean thermal expansion and ice melt. The mid-range scenario projected 0.5-1.2m of SLR based on different representative concentration pathways (RCP) defined by the IPCC. While the pessimistic scenario added more mechanisms of ice-sheet melting, estimating SLR at 1m-2.5m in 2100, with a projection of 10m SLR at 2300.
More frequent coastal flooding is a direct impact of sea-level rise. Based on the Global tides and surge reanalysis by Muis et al., (2016), it is estimated that the extreme coastal water level could be from 0.2 – 2.8m over the mean level. While in extreme cases like China and the Netherlands it could experience 5-10m of extreme sea levels. Here, the coastal local flood level is added on top of the projected SLR.
Allows choosing the RCP, the greenhouse gas concentration trajectory defined by the IPCC. The mild level is based on RCP4.5, of 2°C temperature rise; while the Extreme level is based on RCP 8.5, of 4°C temperature rise.
Applies to the baseline SLR, defined in the “Sea level projection” section, upon which we add flooding. “Mild” refers to the mid-range scenario of 0.5-1.2m, and “extreme” to the pessimistic scenario of 1-2.5m. We used the high-end value of each scenario (mild = 1m; extreme = 2.5m).
Mapping and methodology by Braundt Lau. Article written by Jennie Wong and Owen Mulhern.
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Kulp, Scott A., and Benjamin H. Strauss. “New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding.” Nature communications 10.1 (2019): 1-12.
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