As seas rise, some small low-lying Pacific islands are disappearing, inch by inch, into the ocean.
Experts warn that countries such as Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands could become uninhabitable this century.
Kamal Amakrane of the U.N. Global Center for Climate Mobility says the threat to these nations goes beyond land loss.
“It’s their statehood and sovereignty being challenged,” he says. “It’s their heritage and culture being challenged.”
Amakrane leads the Rising Nations Initiative, which aims to protect the sovereignty of island countries threatened by sea level rise.
He says the world must guarantee these nations a permanent existence, even as their homeland disappears underwater.
For example, he says it will be important to preserve countries’ legal rights to the same ocean resources.
Government services could be digitized to decrease reliance on physical buildings, so citizens could access them from anywhere.
And he says steps must be taken to build a record and repository of their culture and heritage, “in order to be sure that it’s something that continues to be cherished, continues to be shared, and continues to be celebrated.”
He says there’s no time to waste to protect and preserve these vulnerable nations in a warming world.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media