Tourist resorts set to be claimed by rising sea levels: 'Gone entirely'

The once untouched beaches of a Brazilian seaside town are being eroded by the Atlantic Ocean at a rate of six metres a year.

Atafona, Rio de Janeiro state, is being swallowed by rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Situated at the mouth of the once mighty Paraiba do Sul river, its waters once replenished the town’s sands, mitigating loss caused by coastal erosion.

A map of Atafona.
Atafona in Brazil is impacted by sea level rise and a drying river. Source: Google Earth
A man standing in the sea at Atafona.
Atafona suffered worsening coastal erosion on February 7 this year. Source: Getty

With the river drained by Brazilians upstream who use the water for farming, mining and housing, Atafona’s 6000 residents are witnessing the death of their once thriving holiday industry.

Now instead of tourists, it's vultures roaming the sands and scavenging the remains of dead fish, according to AAP.

Pacific holiday hotspots will be lost to climate change

While the tiny Latin American town’s fate has been well documented, many tourism dependent nations across the Pacific and across the Indian Ocean are also set to be washed away.

Flinders University’s Senior Lecturer in Archaeology Dr Ania Kotarba-Morley warns large parts of Fiji, Vanuatu, the Seychelles and the Maldives will be affected by sea level rise and extreme weather.

An aerial shot of Atafona showing coastal erosion.
While coastal erosion at Atafona (pictured) has been well documented, many coastal communities closer to home are set to suffer. Source: Getty

If oceans rise by one metre over the next 80 years, large parts of island nations which are no higher than 80cm above sea level “will be gone entirely”.

Tourism makes up close to 39 per cent of Fiji’s GDP, and more than 28 per cent in the Maldives, meaning the loss of coast resorts will severely impact the livelihoods of many citizens.

“We're now just talking about how will we deal with the inevitable loss,” Dr Kotarba-Morely said.

“I don't think there are very many good answers at the moment, we're talking about potentially displacing entire communities, whole branches of economies derived from tourism.”

Climate change not the only issue destroying world's coastal cities

While climate change is exacerbating the loss of coastal communities across the globe, poor planning is also contributing to the issue.

“With urban sprawl, you can't really stop it,” Dr Kotarba-Morely said.

“It pushes us into marginal areas, and people suddenly start building high-rises on mangroves and on marshes, and it just becomes unwieldy and sustainable.

“Sea level rise, climate change and extreme flooding is obviously the main factor, but the second is that the places we're trying to protect are already often in pretty bad places.”

A woman walking down stairs into the sea at at Maldives resort.
The Maldives will suffer extreme loss of its coast by 2100. Source: Getty - File

Waterside high-rise developments in the United States like Miami and New York, along with Gulf States including Bahrain, United Emirates and Qatar are all set to be impacted.

“As humans, we've been building cities in pretty bad places for a very long time,” Dr Kotarba-Morely said.

“The Roman port of Ostia has been constantly demolished by the sea and by the river.

“Historically humans have always been making poor decisions and it just keeps going, and we keep on making the same bad mistakes.”

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