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IND - Climate change might mean several of Indonesia's small islands have no future

As the world's largest archipelagic country, Indonesia should be showing more concern about the impact of climate change on small islands.

As the world's largest archipelagic country, Indonesia should be showing more concern about the impact of climate change on small islands.

Sea level has risen by around 21–24cm globally since the pre-industrial level as a result of melting ice in the Arctic and Antarctic.

A recent study by Indonesia's National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) estimates that at least 115 of Indonesia's small islands are on the verge of sinking. This is due to sea-level rise and land subsidence.

The research and advocacy organization Climate Central calculates that a one-meter rise in sea level will flood the northern shore of Java island, one of the most densely populated islands in the world. This is because of the coastal terrain's low slope (between 0 and 20 degrees).

This threat is becoming visible. Our 2011 research showed sea-level rise had sunk some parts of small islands. Without aggressive mitigation efforts, BRIN's forecast could become a reality.

How sea level rise

As a result of sea-level rise, bigger waves will "redesign" coastlines. The land sediments can also fall into the sea, causing erosion and flooding in other areas—which will sink small islands sooner or later.

Our study found Rondo Island, located at the western area of the Malacca Strait in Aceh province, lost 1,856 square meters (m²) of land each year from 1993 to 2009 because of annual sea-level rise that reached 1.30mm per year.

Climate change might mean several of Indonesia's small islands have no future
Berhala Island located in eastern Riau. Credit: Noir P. Purba

Berhala Island, located in the eastern area of Malacca Strait in Riau province, recorded a higher trend (about 3.46mm/year). So has Nipah Island, which is close to Singapore, which sees a 3.48mm annual rise.


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