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Climate Change Claims Five of the Solomon Islands

As the ocean rose, they had to flee.

“The sea has started to come inland, it forced us to move up to the hilltop and rebuild our village there away from the sea,” said Sirilo Sutaroti, 94, a leader of the Paurata tribe, to a group of Australian environmental scientists. The scene of this rising sea is an archipelago of upthrust volcanoes and coral atolls, which dots the Pacific to the northeast of Australia: the Solomon Islands. There, a swollen sea is claiming the shoreline — and even, researchers say, entire masses of land.

In a recent paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the scientists link the destructive sea level rise to anthropogenic — that is, human-caused — climate change. The study is the first time anyone has concretely analyzed the loss of Solomon Island shoreline in the context of global warming, they say.

Such work comes at a time when coastal villages — where a few hundred people like Sutaroti might live, whose familial roots could stretch back a century — have scattered, re-forming in smaller clusters where there is suitable higher ground. On the island of Nuatambu, the sea has claimed 11 houses. “Another 12 remain,” wrote Simon Albert, one of the study authors and a civil engineer at the University of Queensland, Australia, in an email to The Washington Post.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade/Rob Maccoll for AusAID

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