Special Report

20 Islands That Will Disappear in Your Lifetime

Source: Laszlo Mates / Getty Images

1. Federal States of Micronesia
> 2018 Population: 112,640

The average rate of sea-level rise worldwide has been 3.1 mm per year since 1993. But the Federated States of Micronesia, which consists of four main islands — Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae — are losing lands three times faster. The sea level is rising as much as 10 mm a year. The country is at risk of disappearing because of coastal inundation, flooding, erosion, and storm surges.

2. Shishmaref, Alaska
> 2018 Population: 617

In 2016, people living in Shishmaref, Alaska, located near the Bering Strait, voted to relocate before melting ice and land erosion would forced them to. (Alaska had granted the city $8 million toward the move, but officials say it will cost $200 million.) The island has sometimes been called “ground zero for climate change in the Arctic.”

Source: Ronald Philip Benjamin / Getty Images

3. Marshall Islands
> 2018 Population: 58,413

Residents of Marshall Islands, a chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls in the central Pacific Ocean, have known for years that they have to either build new artificial islands to relocate or raise the existing ones. Some research suggests that the sea level in the Marshall Islands will rise by as many as 16 inches by 2045 if nothing is done to fight climate change.

Source: Dmitry Malov / Getty Images

4. Tuvalu
> 2018 Population: 11,508

Tuvalu is a small chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean. Its relatively small size and isolated location have made it enticing to tourists but also susceptible to climate change. For more than 25 years, its representatives have raised alarms that climate change could raise sea levels enough to submerge the islands. Even if waters never get that high, Tuvalu could still become uninhabitable as rising sea levels have contaminated the nation’s groundwater resources with salt and caused reduced crop yields.


5. Maldives
> 2018 Population: 515,696

The Maldives is one of the nations that is most vulnerable to sea-level rise. According to a U.N. report, the vast majority of the nation’s land area is less than a meter (3 feet) above sea level. These islands off the southern coast of India are a popular tourist destination, but climate change is already affecting the tourism industry. Nearly half of all tourist resorts have experienced “severe beach erosion.”

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