[146] Resilience of the Whitsundays – why it matters

This blog is part of the series ‘What the resilience of the Whitsundays can teach the world at the beginning of the hurricane season.’ 

On which I published a long-read in Dutch as well and made vlog

As last series of posts has shown: reef, rainforest and mangroves matter a lot, because they are at the frontline of the storm.

In addition, when it comes to climate change, rainforest and mangrove are not only an important climate change adaptation strategy, but an potential mitigation strategy as well.

With increasing storms, and rising sea level – consequences of climate change – the relevance of reef, rainforest and mangroves as natural buffers, and protectors of the high-vulnerable coastal areas cannot be sufficiently underlined.

Moreover, regions such as the Whitsundays, the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico show how we need these features to cope with the changing climate, while they need us to ensure and enforce their own resilience and recovery rate.

Een laatste slachtoffer van orkaan Debbie op de Whitsundays

 Why does it matter (to you)?

Last posts I wrote on the resilience of the whitsundays, of the relevance of reef, rainforest and mangrove in fighting and coping with climate change, in addition of the articles I wrote on the Great Barrier Reef. Why does it matter? Asked someone me. Moreover, that someone was a news editor in Belgium. Why do these coastal natural features matter to us, in Europe, at the other site of the world, where we definitely have no clue about what climate change really is – and few people have had the opportunity to talk to islanders who do FEEL climate change at the letter. Who do see their houses inundated, who do see their coastline moving land inwards, who do see flooding taking over their streets and childhoods, their world and horizon. Islanders and inhabitants of the coastal areas who do know that their houses are the first ones to be flooded, who know that their livehoods will be the first ones to become part of the history, not of the future they once hoped for, as we all hope for a certain future.


So, why does it matter – even if you don’t live in the vicinity of water? Judge yourself:

  • More than 600 million people (10% of the world’s population) live in coastal areas that are less than 10 meters above sea level.
  • Nearly 2.4 billion people (about 40% of the world’s population) live within 100 km (60 miles) of the coast.
  • Almost two-thirds of the world’s cities with populations of over five million are located in areas at risk of sea level rise.
  • Between 1901 and 2010, global sea level riseincreased at an accelerating rate and recent sea level rise appears to have been the fastest in at least 2800 years.
  • During the last four decades, 75 per cent of the sea level rise can be attributed to glacier mass loss and ocean thermal expansion. This gives Antarctica alone the potential to contribute more than a metre of sea level rise by 2100 and more than 15 metres by 2500.
  • Sea level rise leads to coastal erosion, inundations, storm floods, tidal waters encroachment into estuaries and river systems, contamination of freshwater reserves and food crops, loss of nesting beaches, as well as displacement of coastal lowlands and wetlands. In particular, sea level rise poses a significant risk to coastal regions and communities. àThese are precisely the symptomes reefs, mangroves and rainforests can protects us from
  • The potential costs associated with damage to harbours and portsdue to sea level rise could be as high as $111.6 billion by 2050and $367.2 billion by the end of the century.
  • The cost of dikes alone is predicted to increase to $12-71 billion per yearby 2100 as a result of rising sea levels.
  • There is growing evidence that nature-based solutions can be effective for risk reduction; the evidence is highest for mangroves and marshes, while it is less well developed for coral reefs.
  • Ocean warming has been linked to extreme weather eventsas increasing seawater temperatures provide more energy for storms that develop at sea, leading to fewer but more intense tropical cyclones
  • Latest figures show that disasters—90 per cent of which are classed as climate related—now cost the world economy $520 billion per yearand push 26 million people into poverty every year.
  • It is estimated that at least 11 to 15 per cent of the population of Small Island Developing States live on land with an elevation of 5 meters or lower,and that a sea level rise of half a meter could displace 1.2 million people from low-lying islands in the Caribbean Sea and the Indian and Pacific Oceans; with that number almost doubling if the sea level rises by 2 metres.
  • It has been reported that an annual average of 21.5 million people have been forcibly internally displaced by sudden weather-related hazards since 2008.

And for those who are living in elevated areas, high enough to be protected against flooding, and sea level rise, open up your arms to welcome all those people that will lose the land their where born on, the land they were living on, the land they were hoping to build a future on. Open up your arms, because the climate change migration will be huge.

So, why it matters? Judge yourself!

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