Tuvalu is often described as a canary in a mine, with predictions that it will become the first country since Atlantis into the ocean. It has one of the smallest populations in the world.
Beachhead erosion, coastal engineering, environmental mismanagement, overpopulation, deforestation, and deteriorating coral reefs are acting together and in conjunction with global warming to affect sea levels and cause damage to Tuvalu's underground water table.
King tides – the highest tides of the year – have grown over recent years with the increase of the average atmosphere temperatures; sea water is now bubbling up through the porous coral landscape.
Salt water is flooding the shores and killing coconut palms. Many large parcels of land used for palm plantations are no longer of any value, greatly affecting the local subsistence economy. The nation's chief export of dried coconut meat is threatened.
Floods used to occur twice a year. Now it is every month. One of the smallest islands, called Te Pukasavilivili, actually disappeared in 1997.
Pulaka is the staple diet of the people of Tuvalu. Salt water has seeped into the island's pulaka pits, which are used to grow the food crop, making the pits unfit for further cultivation. In some places, three-quarters of the plants have died, leaving people reliant on imported foods. Fruit trees and pandanas are also suffering. Salt-water intrusion has already affected communal crop gardens on six of Tuvalu's eight islands.