While countries wrangle over who should pay for the climate crisis, a community on Lagos Island is being swallowed by the sea.
Last year, the seas rose just under two inches off the U.K.’s coast. On the Isle of Wight, in the United Kingdom, nearly two feet more came ashore than last year. But much more is occurring around the world, according to researchers at the World Wildlife Fund.
“Our oceans are pretty comfortable now,” says Gidon Eshel, a senior scientist at the Israel-based water watchdog.
He said that the planet’s seas are rising at an average rate of 0.5 inches a year, but he predicts that these measurements are understating the problem because the Earth is starting to cool more rapidly than in the past and the oceans aren’t reflecting that back in as many places.
In the past, Eshel explains, the oceans would take in the excess heat and use it to evaporate, which would send that heat into space and cool things down. But Eshel says that any future cooling could exacerbate the problem.
So while countries like Iran, Cuba and Venezuela are digging in their heels and clashing over whether a country should be made to pay billions of dollars to adapt to the impact of climate change, the people of El Saint (or Saint Samuel) Beach are fretting.
At the tip of Nigeria’s Lagos Island, an area that receives nearly seven inches of rain per year, a disturbing amount of this precipitation ends up pooling in a sea cliff.
As the Atlantic Ocean floods the coastline, the saltwater floodwater pours back into the shore. But it’s not only this massive outflow that’s a problem.
The sub-lake, called Kiriji Cove, doubles as a manmade swimming hole that was built when the island was reclaimed in 1871. This clear window into an ancient shoreline and the rapid coast encroachment it can cause are a particular concern.
While Eshel estimates that the land level is rising almost one inch a year, a 2-foot land loss has been recorded.
The community has joined a number of others around the world that have drawn the attention of the United Nations and conservationists because of this ongoing threat. It’s also worth noting that this area isn’t just facing the effects of rising sea levels; El Saint is losing at least 40 percent of its agricultural lands due to recurrent droughts and the compounding effects of salinity, also referred to as “sea salt.”