Zooming around with Zoe: Fighting the rising sea level in the Maldives

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Because we are located next to the Atlantic Ocean, most of Eastern North Carolina is less than 200 feet above sea level, which puts some areas at risk when it comes to sea-level rise.

One country in Asia is much more threatened than we are – and they’re doing something about it.  

Known as the “Treasure Island,” the Maldives is made up of almost 2,000 islands and home to 450,000 people.  With more than 80% of the country within three feet of sea level, the Maldives has the lowest terrain and is the flattest country on Earth, making it extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise.

NASA estimates global sea level is rising 3-4 millimeters per year. This may not seem like a lot, but in a person’s lifetime, sea level could rise anywhere from 1-4 feet.

Planners in the Maldives have been hard at work to enhance the resiliency of the islands. Since 1997, the government has been creating artificial islands by pumping sand from the seafloor onto a submerged coral platform.

The most successful is Hulhumale, which is now the fourth largest island in the country and twice the height, making the island refuge for those who are eventually driven off lower-lying islands, as well as an option for evacuations during future typhoons and storm surges.

If all else fails, the Maldives government has explored plans to purchase land on higher ground in other countries as an insurance policy.

North Carolina isn’t as vulnerable as the Maldives when it comes to sea level rise, but all of us should remain vigilant as the oceans continue to creep closer and closer to land. 

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