3p Weekend: 5 Cities Already Feeling the Effects of Climate Change

A local man paddles past submerged cars on South Beach in Miami in 2009. Locals say the rising tides are only getting worse.
A local man paddles past submerged cars on South Beach in Miami in 2009. Locals say the rising tides are only getting worse.

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

While some still view climate change as some distant or unidentifiable threat (and others simply argue its effects “won’t be so bad”), the impacts of rising tides and surging temperatures are already changing lives around the world. From South Florida to the Pacific Islands, this list represents thousands of lives that are forever altered by the warming climate — and a threat to millions more unless something changes quickly.

1. Miami, Florida, United States

“Climate change is no longer viewed as a future threat round here,” atmosphere expert Professor Ben Kirtman, of the University of Miami, told the Guardian in a recent interview. “It is something that we are having to deal with today.”

As noted by the Guardian, Miami’s once glamorous beachfront thoroughfare has been reduced to a one-lane passage in many places, with blockades and road work closing in on all sides to stop the rising tide. Every year, with the coming of fall and spring tides, ocean surges break up over the beach and pour through storm drains — destroying cars and damaging homes and businesses.

“This never used to happen,” laundromat owner Eliseo Toussaint told the New York Times, as he watched saltwater fill the streets and block his front door. “I’ve owned this place eight years and now it’s all the time.”

Read more in the Guardian.

2. Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok residents are already experiencing dramatic temperature increases as a result of climate change, with rising tides threatening further damage. The average maximum temperatures observed in Bangkok have risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius from 1961 to 2007, the United Nations Environmental Program highlights in a new report.

According to the report: “The impacts of climate change on the city are likely to be quite severe, including major flooding due to Bangkok’s low elevation, increased land subsidence which is already occurring, problems of water supply provision and contamination, air pollution and oppressive heat with associated health consequences, increases in infectious diseases and decrease in biomass production.”

Read more from the U.N. Environmental Program.

3. Coastal cities in Indonesia and Bangladesh

Thousands of coastal residents have already been forced to flee their homes and move into shantytowns in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Thousands of coastal residents have already been forced to flee their homes and move into shantytowns in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Experts expect about 250 million people worldwide to move by 2050 as a result of climate change. Of those, 20 million to 30 million climate change refugees are expected to come from Bangladesh, likely the largest number from one place, the Toronto Star reports.

Already, cyclones, tropical storms and other natural disasters, along with rising sea levels, have forced thousands from their homes in coastal Indonesia and Bangladesh into the slums of Dhaka. After taking residence in the overcrowded city, many find a home in shantytowns, where sanitation is minimal to nonexistent and monsoon season often brings malaria and cholera outbreaks.

Read more in the Toronto Star.

4. Newtok, Alaska, United States

Last year, the Guardian ran a compelling and timely four-part series entitled “America’s First Climate Refugees.” Specifically, the series focused on native Alaskan villages on the shores of the Bering Sea.

In the village of Newtok, for example, floods and erosion are eating away the land at alarming rates. Shorter, warmer winters, earlier springs and rising waters threaten to transform the area into an ever-shrinking island, which could completely disappear, possibly within the next five years.

Some coastal Alaskan villages are exploring ways to prevent erosion and flood damage, but in areas like Newtok, which is situated in a low-lying wetlands unable to support infrastructure projects, residents have no choice but to move.

Read more in the Guardian.

5. Sovereign Pacific islands

The first mass exodus related to climate change has already happened in Kiribati, a group of 32 islands located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. Back in 2012, the archipelago began moving its entire population to Fiji to avoid rising seas. If rising sea levels persist at current rates, the entire nation will be submerged by 2100.

Unfortunately, Kiribati is not alone. The Caterat Islanders of Papua New Guinea, for example, were the world’s first community to be entirely displaced by climate change. The island is predicted to be completely underwater by 2015.

Read more here on Triple Pundit.

Image credits: 1.) Flickr/maxstrz 2.) Flickr/eguidetravel

Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is a senior editor at TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist who frequently writes about sustainability, corporate social responsibility and clean tech. Her work has appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands, Earth911 and the Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni.

Mary Mazzoni

Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is the senior editor of TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist with a passion for storytelling and sustainability. Her work has appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News, Earth911, the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands and the Daily Meal.

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian with an interest in climate resilience, clean tech and food justice. You can contact her at mary@triplepundit.com.