Some of the most damaging by-products of climate change are also rising sea levels and extreme weather events, including storms and bigger waves that contribute to land degradation.
Surfers are one demographic that experience these changes firsthand. While climate change holds one small advantage to their sport, the disadvantages to local communities and coastal towns are much greater.
“The build-up in storm activity causes bigger waves to form, so that’s a plus from a surfer’s point of view,” Layne says. “But that’s a very selfish way to look at climate change. Over the last 40 years I’ve been visiting Hawaii, I’ve seen beaches eroded and houses falling into the water – especially on the north shore of Oahu – I’ve never seen anything like it.”
We don’t have to look far from our shores to see these changes for ourselves2. As Tim explains, extreme weather events are increasing globally and there is evidence that waves are becoming larger – and dangerously so – due to climate change-induced warming3. In the Asia-Pacific region, South Australia, Western Australia, parts of New Zealand and the Indonesian islands are particularly susceptible.
“If you imagine this phenomenon happening in a developing country like Indonesia and its 17,000 islands that are fairly low above sea level, it can be absolutely devastating,” Tim explains.
“Extreme storms compound the issues these people are already facing – many of them live in a state of subsistence – and can contaminate the land with salt water even when they retreat. And when these islands eventually become borderline uninhabitable, I expect to see climate migration becoming more and more of an issue.”