Brazilian Town is Losing at Least 5 Meters of Coast Per Year

Brazilian Town is Losing at Least 5 Meters of Coast Per Year

The Brazilian town Atafona, north of Rio de Janeiro, was one already familiar with extreme erosion. Its shoreline is among the 4% of global coasts that shrink five meters or more each year -- a pattern created in part by human activities like mining and agriculture, which have altered the flow of the town's river. With climate change, that figure has been as high as three to four meters in a matter of weeks.

The erosion's rapid destruction has created a streetscape abutting the sand and ocean that "frightens its residents, intrigues scientists, and fascinates tourists eager to see the destruction," as National Geographic wrote last fall.

AFP: The Brazil resort town disappearing into the sea, February 14, 2022.

Why This Matters

With climate change causing sea levels to rise and rain to fall in more intense, less predictable patterns, Atafona residents are watching their city disappear in real time. Since the 1960s, thousands of people in Atafona have lost their homes. For the people who remain today, there have been proposals of solutions to slow the erosion but nothing has been built.

The story of Atafona's erosion is consistent with other cases of climate change impacts exacerbated by destabilized water patterns and human manipulation of land and the atmosphere. A new study from last week found that less than 16% of the world's coastal regions remain intact due to human-caused "industrialized" pressures. And just this week, NPR covered another new report from NOAA that projects sea level rise in the US to be one foot by 2050 along the East Coast and six inches along the West Coast.

Guardian: Climate change is making floods worse - here's how, October 19, 2021.

Across the Pond: Coastal Flooding in the UK

Earlier this year, the UK's Environment Agency projected that about 7,000 coastal properties will be lost to erosion. The people living there would be expected to relocate without compensation for their lost properties. And that estimate assumes that the country's current shoreline management plans -- a range of leaving things as they are with no intervention to "holding the line" -- are funded and built out.

Coastal erosion expert Professor Robert Duck at Dundee University told the Guardian: It is a very difficult issue, but we can't defend everything at all costs. There are just not the resources to do it and keep on doing it. But it is not just about money, often people have lived in places for generations and there is a lot of history and memories."

ITV News: UK not prepared for coastal erosion, September 24, 2021.