May 18, 2015

‘Disaster after disaster’ hits Marshall Islands as climate change kicks in

Majuro, Majuro Atoll
Kili, Kili Island
RMI
by
Renee Lewis
,
Al Jazeera
Rusina Rusin on April 16, 2015, with her grandchildren, including Keslynna Myo Sibok, right, at their home in the part of the Marshall Islands' Majuro Atoll that is most vulnerable to flooding.Photo: Renee Lewis, Al Jazeera
Rusina Rusin on April 16, 2015, with her grandchildren, including Keslynna Myo Sibok, right, at their home in the part of the Marshall Islands' Majuro Atoll that is most vulnerable to flooding.Photo: Renee Lewis, Al Jazeera

Unlike in many parts of the world where climate change often seems a distant threat, for the Marshallese it is already a daily reality.

The type of risks the country faces from climate change vary depending on whether it is an El Niño or La Niña year — warm or cold phases in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, White said. During an El Niño, which scientists have predicted will occur throughout 2015, wave heights decrease by several inches, but the risk of typhoons is doubled. Conversely, wave heights increase by up to a foot during a La Niña, when increased rainfall can also trigger floods.

In 2011 floods left Kili “fully underwater..." Severe floods have already struck Kili twice this year