Feature

If Sea Levels Rose, Which Countries Would go First?

sea-levelIf we continue to drive our cars to work, use deodorant after we shower and turn our lights on, we’ll create a hole on the ozone layer, the globe will heat up and we’ll all be doomed. At least this is what some eco-warriors, washed-up politicians and z-list Toyota Prius driving movie stars would have us belief. The climate change debate really hotted up a couple of years ago, Al Gore even released a DVD about it, everyone got whipped up into a frenzy and set about buying energy saving light bulbs and washing their clothes at lower temperatures.

These days, the furore seems to have calmed, and some are even questioning whether original theories about global warming were accurate. Whatever happens, the fact is some of us are safer than others; those who live in low-lying areas are most susceptible to flooding and will be first to experience the full force of nature, should we continue to indulge in such irresponsible practices.

So what areas would be first to go if the worst did happen?

Tuvalu

Tuvalu

Beautiful Tuvalu beach. Photo: excellentworlds.com

Tuvalu is a small complex of islands lying in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to the north-east of Australia. It is commonly referred to as an idyllic island paradise and while not a tourist hotspot like other island groups such as the Maldives or Mauritius, its economy does rely heavily on tourist dollars.

Tuavlu is recognised as one of the happiest places on the planet, though recently it has been experiencing a degree of plight, and it’s believed to be due to global warming. The Island groups’ highest peak is just 4.5 meters meaning it is highly susceptible to rising sea levels, of which there is already some evidence.

A Times report in 2007 highlighted that the lives of Tuvalu’s inhabitants are becoming more and more affected by seawater, which often contaminates their wells, saturates farmland and even rises up through the floors in their houses. It’s Ironic to think that the Island nation is miles from industrialised countries most responsible for the climate change.

Holland

holland_Sea_level

Holland is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world in the face of sea level rise as a result of climate change. However, at the same time it is maybe the best equipped to face the challenge, disposing of resources and wit. Photo: geograph.org.uk

Holland is well known for its Windmills, Red Light District, laid back attitude to life, and of course, it’s flatness. Holland, along with Belgium and Luxembourg are collectively known as the ‘low countries’, the level land makes it a favourite for casual and intermediate cyclists and explains why so many of its in habitants use two-wheeled peddle power to get around.

This is a blessing as much of a course however, since Holland is very vulnerable to flood waters, particularly around costal areas in the north. The country has experienced many floods in the past, though the last serious occurrence was in 1953. Holland is also under threat from the Rhine and Meuse.

Being a developed country, Holland has poured plenty of resources into flood defences, including drainage ditches, canals and pumping stations, and while its current level of protection is robust, complacency would be foolish.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh is situation in southern Asia, bordered to the West by India, and to the East by Burma. Like Holland, the country is defined physically by it’s large floodplain to the south, with many arterial rivers flowing in from the Bay of Bengal.

The combination of its low-lying land to the south, tropical climate, and the fact that melted snow flows into the country from the Himalayas means Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to flooding, and its inhabitants are no strangers to the havoc that heavy rain fall can wreak.

In 1998, devastating floods engulfed Bangladesh, killing 1000 people and making 30 million people homeless, at one point, two thirds of the country was underwater. This illustrates that Bangladesh is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

Japan

Unfortunately, the world is all too aware of Japan’s vulnerability to natural disasters. Earlier this year an earthquake in the Pacific caused a devastating Tsunami to hit Japan’s north-east coast, the immediate death toll and damage quota were disastrous but the dam caused to the Fukushima Nuclear power-plant caused on-going social and economic problems for the country.

Japan’s long, exposed coastline make it particularly susceptible to Tsunamis, and the county’s high population, much of it living in large cities located near the sea makes evacuating disaster areas all the more difficult because of congestion.

The UK

Elephant Rock on western shore of Hestan Island. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Elephant Rock on western shore of Hestan Island. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The UK is of course another island nation, and while the iconic images of the white cliffs of Dover may have you believe that England is safe from rising sea levels, this far from the truth. Although nowhere near as destructive as natural disasters in other countries, the UK has seen its fair share of frequent floods.

Although not recently affected, the Fens in the far east of England are most at risk from rising sea levels, being the lowest lying area in England, the region shares a similar topography to the Netherlands.

Of course the fact that the UK is not located on any fault lines and has a temperate climate work in its favour and mean disasters on a grand scale are highly unlikely.

Joe is a travel blogger who doesn’t let the fear of natural disasters deter him from taking holidays in some amazing places. He’s jetting off on his Dubai holidays soon, and rising sea levels will be the last thing on his mind! You can follow him on Twitter @joe__johnson__

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