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West Indies: by 2040, islands could become “uninhabitable”


« Itthe West Indies are among the most endangered islands. “Virginie Duval, professor of geography at the University of La Rochelle, who participated in the drafting of the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Ipcc), is leading a field study in the West Indies with her team. And his fears are significant: marine submersion threatens, and by 2040, some areas of Guadeloupe and Martinique may become uninhabitable. With her team, she focuses on “nature-based erosion solutions projects” to thwart the impacts of climate change.

“The impacts will be multiple,” she warns. First, the cyclones will be more intense. The islands will experience peaks of destruction, as in 2017 in Saint-Martin. Coastal erosion will question the use of coastlines, which are home to residential areas, tourist activities and infrastructure, such as riprap. “The scientist confirms that, as far as marine submersion is concerned, the West Indies are among the most threatened islands. “With the rise in sea level, which now we can no longer stop, and as with the erosion phenomenon, we will experience episodes of submersion like those of late April in Guadeloupe, in case of rain and high tide combined,” she believes.

Lack of water and food resources

Virginie Duval therefore insists on the need to “put in place now adaptation plans to climate change”. She explains: “We are working here, with my research laboratory, on nature-based solutions to erosion projects (…), on ecosystems to mitigate the impact of climate change. But it should be understood that replanting corals, restoring the mangrove, etc. will not be enough if we do not stop polluting. It is necessary to solve the problem of waste, sanitation: at the large seaport, the replanted corals are “dying” because of human pressures. It also raises the question of the means that public actors, especially the State, are willing to put on climate change adaptation, and this is not up to the stakes. »

According to the latest IPCC report, “some parts of these islands will become uninhabitable, some areas will be submerged”. “In other places, we will run out of water and, unless we know how to desalinate seawater, the territories will lose a vital resource, she warns. From 2040, public authorities will have to implement relocations, the displacement of people or activities in safe areas, as is the case in Petit-Bourg. »

TO READ ALSOPromising avenues of research to safeguard the ocean

Finally, the consequences are expected to be severe for local food resources. “Agriculture is going to face challenges, especially that of recovering after intense cyclones,” explains Virginie Duval. With coral reefs perishing, coastal fishing will no longer be possible. We will have to adapt with climate-compatible practices for everything, all the time, and we must anticipate it now. »


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