Climate change is often seen as a problem for generations to come, but as our freakish weather has shown, we’re already living the future we created. Need more proof? An entire Native American community is now going to be resettled, before it gets swallowed by the rising seas.
The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians have called the Isle of Jean Charles — a tiny slip of land some 160km south of New Orleans — home for nearly 200 years. Tragically, they’re now watching it disappear into the ocean. Since the 1950s, the tribe has lost all but two per cent of its land to erosion and approximately 20cm of sea level rise. On the remaining 400m by 800m sandbar, the population has dwindled from 400 to 100.
Now, Inside Climate News reports that the island’s residents are receiving $US48 million federal aid to pick up and move inland. This makes the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe the largest population in the United States to be resettled because of climate change so far — but many more communities on the Gulf Coast and elsewhere face a similar future.
Indeed, Florida has been struggling with the impacts of sea level rise for years, despite the state government’s devout effort to pretend that climate change doesn’t exist. Thousands of kilometres away in northwest Alaska, coastal communities are watching their land disappear under melting ice sheets. Earlier this week, a study published in Nature Climate Change found that sea level rise of 1.8m by 2100 — an amount near the high-end of current estimates — could jeopardise the homes of 13 million Americans.
This is more than a problem for remote border towns, rising sea levels will impact a huge portion of America and the world. We’d be wise to act on it sooner rather than later.
Top: A house on the Isle de Jean Charles. Image Credit: Karen Apricot / Flickr