There is one place where climate change is perhaps most imminent. Twelve miles from either coast of the Chesapeake Bay, Tangier Island, Virginia is in danger of disappearing due to sea-level rise.
In June, a delegation of Republican climate activists visited the island to try to convince its residents to take climate change seriously.
Reuters documented the visit and found that residents are not quick to change their minds. The photos below show how serious the problem has become there.
Christian Storm contributed to an earlier version of this story.
Tangier Island has been eroding for over 100 years, but lately, rising water levels and more frequent storms have increased the rate of land loss.
Since 1850, Tangier has lost 67% of its land mass to erosion, according to a 2015 Army Corps of Engineers study.
Farms have disappeared as a result.
To convince some of the town’s 450 residents to take action, a group of Republican climate activists went to the island in August.
Two months earlier, President Donald Trump told Tangier Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge that he shouldn’t worry about a rise in sea levels. According to The Daily Times of Salisbury, Maryland, the president’s call was in response to a CNN report about the island.
“He said, ‘Your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more,'” Eskridge told The Daily Times.
“We’ll talk to everybody,” James Eskridge, mayor of the island’s primarily Republican community, said. “But they’re not going to change many minds here.”
According to Eskridge, the majority of residents reject the belief that climate change exists. Many would prefer to receive a new seawall than to consider the long-term effects of carbon emissions on sea-level rise.
In recent years, Tangier Island has become a poster child of the nation’s climate crisis.
This approach to climate change is not unique to Tangier. About a third of Americans do not support regulating pollution from coal-fired power plants, which are large drivers of carbon emissions.
Some scientists predict that Tangier residents will need to abandon the island within decades.
In the mid-1800s, Tangier Island encompassed about 2,060 acres. Today, just 791 acres are above water.
Research suggests Tangier is losing nine acres of land a year to erosion and rising tides. As a result, 50 to 100 residents leave the island each year.
When former Business Insider reporter Christian Storm visited Tangier in 2014, he learned that tombstones sit on front lawns of homes due to the island’s lack of space.
Source: Business Insider
In the 2017 photo below, a tombstone lies submerged at the water’s edge in the “Uppards” part of Tangier Island.
To many of Tangier’s residents, however, the threat of their island vanishing still seems like a far off future.
“They say in about 100 years, this island’s gonna be disappeared, but I’m not going to college. I’m gonna work on the water here,” one young Tangier Island resident said. “I’m not gonna be living in another 100 years either.”
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