Lives in the balance: climate change and the Marshall Islands

Her vista would, sadly, be unremarkable in the Marshall Islands were it not for the policeman languidly guarding the corrugated metal wall – Heine is the president of the Pacific island nation.

There is one destination at the top of the list for departing Marshallese: the USA. More than 20,000 people from this remote sprawl of islands, located between Hawaii and Australia, are now in the US. Surprisingly, the largest Marshallese community has gathered not in New York or Los Angeles, but around Springdale, an unremarkable corner of Arkansas.

In 2014, after five-meter swells inundated Majuro for the third time in a year, the US Geological Survey released sobering research that shows that a mix of sea level rise and marauding waves means “Many atoll islands will be flooded annually, salinizing the limited freshwater resources and thus likely forcing inhabitants to abandon their islands in decades, not centuries, as previously thought”.


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