Experts have warned that the warming planet poses an existential threat to communities within the coastal line, causing forced migration and communal conflicts.
The experts who spoke at a side event on Advancing the United Nations Convention on Conservation River Deltas to Narrow the Energy Poverty in the Global South for a Just Transition at the ongoing COP28 noted that conservation of inland and ocean-facing deltas is critical to offset the deadly impacts of worsening climate crisis and save the lives of millions of vulnerable people facing these crises.
“Without stopping the burning of fossil fuel, deforestation and the cause of changing climate, river delta communities will be under constant threat of extinction,” Michael Glantz, a professor with consortium for capacity building, University of Colorado, Boulder United States.
“The impact of climate change on the hinterland of the deltas could be three-quarters of a billion people,” Glantz said.
River deltas barely rise above sea level and among the regions most imperiled by climate change, they barely rise to the level of public attention despite being home to half a billion people, according to experts, and supporting some of the earth’s most productive agricultural regions and fishing.
Asim Zia, professor of public policy and computer science at the University of Vermont, US, said half a rise in the global sea level induced by climate change will lead to a lot of migration and in addition saltwater instruction.
He noted that river delta communities contribute very little to global emissions but are highly impacted by climate change.
According to him, deltas will face high risks in the future from rising sea levels. He identified other threats to deltas, including the loss of the sediment needed to replenish them and keep them above the rising seas.
Nasir Memon, a senator from Pakistan, said the impact of climate change on river delta communities has a direct impact on people’s health and forces them to migrate as the only ultimate reaction adaptive mechanism.
“No one wants to move out of their place, but when you have sickness induced by water insecurity and health challenges, that becomes the only option like what happened in Iran,” Memon said.
In his introductory remarks, Freeman Elohor Oluowo, founder and centre coordinator for the African Centre for Climate Actions and Rural Development Initiative (ACCARD)- sponsors of the event in partnership with the Bayelsa State Government, said the coastal communities within the Niger Delta would be wiped away sooner or later due to the effect of climate change.
Oluowo who is also the focal person UNCCRD/DeltasUNite noted that collaborative efforts are needed in tackling issues of river deltas and energy poverty.