(CNN)In 1998, the cruel heat of El Nino hit Seychelles hard. Sea surface temperatures rose around the Indian Ocean, bleaching 90% of coral reefs in the archipelago. Widespread flooding caused significant economic losses — fishing and agriculture accounting for more than half of the total figure according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The meteorological event, a combination of ocean heat redistribution and wind reversal in the Pacific, occurs approximately every two to seven years and has far-reaching consequences. The last El Nino in 2016 was similarly dreadful, reducing coral coverage on Seychelles’ reefs from 50% to 5%, say local researchers.
El Nino is a phenomenon: a devastating, uncontrollable exception to the norm. With carefully managed conservation, Seychelles can survive its wild fluctuations. But not if global warming continues. As baseline temperatures creep up, the ecosystem loses its ability to recover. Eventually El Nino could prove terminal.
Climate change has become the day-to-day struggle for this tiny nation — an island nation that faces erasure should the problem remain uncurbed.
So what can a country with one of the smallest GDPs in the world
do to prevent the global catastrophe lapping at its shores?
A survey of the threats
Headlines refer to the “slow creep”
of climate change. In pockets of the world not yet on its frontlines, there is still doubt or ambivalence — even from the highest offices in the land
. Seychellois, however, can measure the effects with a yardstick along their coastline.
“People that don’t believe in climate change, maybe they need to come to the Seychelles,” says Lisa Laporte Booyse, who runs a guesthouse on the southeast tip of Mahe, the largest island in the chain.
“We can show them photos of things that were very different before … coastal erosion. We can see flooding that we never experienced, the higher temperatures that we’ve never experienced before. The season(al) changes that have had an effect.”
“Before, we literally could tell you the day that our rainy season would start. Now, we have droughts that we never experienced before.”
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