HAVANA – More than 2 percent of Cuba could be submerged by the year 2050 as a consequence of climate change, according to a study released Saturday by the official daily Granma.
Research into the dangers and vulnerability of the island's coastline, being carried out by several Cuban scientific institutions, says that in 2050 an area of 2,550 sq. kilometers (985 sq. miles) will be underwater, or 2.32 percent of the nation's landmass.
The analysis is based on estimates of the National Meteorology Institute, according to which average sea level in the years 2050 and 2100 will have risen 27 and 85 centimeters (10 and 33 inches), respectively, while oceanologists point to maximum increases of 31.14 and 84.92 centimeters (12 1/4 and 33 1/2 inches) for the same years.
Granma said the studies show that "the rise of average sea level is climate change's chief threat to Cuba's coastal area."
But much sooner than that, Cuban scientists warn, the worst threat of climate change to the island will be the rise in sea level and sea swells causes by strong hurricanes, because of the damage they will inflict on infrastructure located in low-lying areas near the coastline.
According to the study, if "the required measures of adaptation" are not taken, by 2050 some 122 housing developments on the coast will be totally or partially affected by the rise in sea level, and some 15 will have disappeared altogether.
In April, Cuban media published another study by the Cuban Oceanology Institute indicating that most of the country's 400 beaches are already affected by a retreat of the coastline estimated at 1.2 meters (4 feet) per year.
The document stressed that the generalized nature of Cuban beach erosion is the result of the rising sea level, removal of sand, construction on natural dunes and the faulty placement of breakwaters.
Cuba is an archipelago of 110,922 sq. kilometers (42,827 sq. miles) with a population of more than 11.2 million inhabitants.