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Climate Change, Sea-Level Rise Could Put an End to South China Sea Disputes

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Common Dreams staff

(Photo: Yomiuri Shimbun/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Conflicting claims to islands and reefs in the South China Sea have added to tensions in the Pacific between countries such as Japan and China, but those tensions "may all soon be rendered obsolete" thanks to climate change and rising sea levels that could engulf the disputed territories, Japan's The Diplomat reports Thursday.

Seven nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have ongoing disputes over the control of resources and land of this area, which include potential oil reserves in the range of 28 to 213 billion barrels, massive mineral deposits in the seabed, and vast potential fisheries. But tangible claims to dry land continue to face bigger problems -- disappearance.

Wilson VornDick at The Diplomat writes:

Claims over the contentious 1.3-million-square-mile area of the South China Seas (SCS) have become an increasing focal point for the global community...In the past, this has led to overt conflict between China and Vietnam in the 1970s, and more recently to displays of force. Yet, most of the atolls, banks and islands that make up the SCS are merely a few inches or feet above sea level at high tide. Often times, they flood over during typhoon season and have to be evacuated. With environmental predictions of sea-level rise on the order of 3 to 6 feet during the remainder of the 21st century, what would happen if the “dry” areas of the SCS became submerged?

What the report doesn't mention is the number of human beings, plants, and animals that will lose their homes, or worse, as the rising sea overtakes their habitat.

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