Bangladesh, Pacific Islands, Torres Strait
Finally, let's visit the country of Bangladesh, where a large swath of the populous coastal lies very close to sea level. In fact, a one-meter rise in sea level would inundate 30,000 km2 and displace 20 million people. This area is already extremely prone to flooding from cyclones, and this danger will increase with sea level rise.
The following video provides a stark picture of flooding in Bangladesh in 2004.
Video: Complete Bangladesh Movie (3:33). This video is not narrated.
A dire picture also emerges in small island nations in the western Pacific, including Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands, where sea level rise over the next century could cause these nations to completely disappear. In fact, the President of the nation of Kiribati has publicly stated that the 100,000 citizens in his country may need to be relocated as a result of climate change and sea level rise. In Tuvalu, large tides occurring in January, February, and March, and August, September, and October, known as King Tides, flood some areas of the main island and capital city Funafuti. Before sea level rise was a problem, these tides did not cause extensive flooding. Now, they are responsible for salinization of the soil which makes it infertile and for spreading diseases because of the leaking septic tanks, as well as loss of inhabitable land.
Like in the Torres Straits, inhabitants on many low-level islands in the Pacific are building sea walls to keep the rising seas out. However, in many places, the walls are built out of coral, often obtained from fragile offshore reefs that themselves offer some protection from the rising seas.
One hundred and fifty islands lie between Cape York Australia and Papua New Guinea, 17 of the islands are permanently inhabited by about 7000 people belonging to indigenous populations related to the Aboriginal peoples of mainland Australia. With an average elevation close to sea level and a large tidal range (spring tide is about 10 feet), the islands are very prone to the effects of sea level rise. Trends suggest that the island may be characterized by a slightly higher rate of sea level rise than the global average. Even if the islands remain emergent, as sea level rises, they will still be far more prone to the impact of extreme events such as tropical cyclones as well as regular high tides. With very limited resources, the islands have had a piecemeal response to rising sea levels by building sea walls along the low-lying area. Unfortunately, these walls are in dire need of repair and reinforcement. Torres Islanders have pleaded with the Australian government to help rebuild and fortify the sea walls to protect the vulnerable areas. In August 2011, the government appropriated $22 million to build the wall, however, they backtracked four months later and, thus, the plight of the islanders remains in jeopardy.
So, a final word. As you can imagine, Hurricane Sandy has reinvigorated the call for flood barriers and sea walls at the entrance to the New York City harbor. Such structures are very expensive, but would have saved an enormous amount of destruction from the storm. This is not the only city where flood barriers will be needed in the future, as the video below describes graphically.