And you thought that rising sea levels were a major climate change concern. How about the rising dead?
Actually, it turns out the two issues are related. Rapidly rising sea levels throughout the Marshall Islands have begun disturbing old World War II graveyards, causing skeletons to rise up and become exposed, reports the BBC.
Recently the scene has become especially morbid. A mass grave containing 26 dead Japanese soldiers was exposed by high tides, according to Tony deBrum, the Island's foreign minister, speaking on the sidelines of the U.N. climate negotiations.
"These last spring tides in February to April this year have caused not just inundation and flooding of communities but have also undermined regular land, so that even the dead are affected," explained deBrum.
"There are coffins and dead people being washed away from graves, it's that serious."
The Marshall Islands are one of the most vulnerable locations in the world to rising sea levels. The country, home to around 70,000 people, is made up of 29 atolls, none of which have a high point above 2 meters. As the sea invades, land becomes inundated and salt makes the land infertile. The Islands' residents project to be among the world's first climate change refugees. Now, it turns out, even the dead are being forced to flee.
The islands have a storied World War II legacy. They were originally occupied by the Japanese, until U.S. forces took control. Many of the newly exposed graves are believed to contain skeletons from Japanese soldiers.
According to a recent report from the U.N. Environment Programme, sea level is rising around the Marshall Islands at a much higher rate than elsewhere in the world. The rate of rise between 1993 and 2009 was a staggering 12mm per year. The global average, by comparison, was just 3.2mm. It's a grisly reminder that climate change is happening in real time, and its effects are increasing at an alarming clip. There's no debate to be had about the issue for residents of places like the Marshall Islands.
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