Large parts of Albania’s second city Durres and third city Vlore would be underwater should temperatures rise by just 2°C, if the authorities fail to build defences to cope with a catastrophic rise in sea levels.
Stimulations by Climate Central, an independent organisation of scientists and journalists, show that the two Albanian coastal cities would be among those severely affected by rising sea levels as global warming causes an expected melting of polar ice caps.
According to the organisation’s animated maps, in a +2°C world the central part of Durres, which has a population of just over 113,000, would be underwater, an area that includes the city’s railway station, its port and the central square and historic Roman baths.
Many of these areas would be below sea level with a rise of just 0.5°C, although other areas of the city that lie on higher ground would be spared, the projections indicate. Meanwhile, nearby Bishti i Pallis Cape would become an island, as the land to the north of the Durres suburbs is also set to be underwater.
It’s a similar situation in Vlore (population 105,000), on the northern coast of the country. There, waters would reach the 16th century Muradie Mosque and the remains of the historic city walls — putting much of the modern city under water — although the Kuzum Baba terrace that is the highest point in the city, a natural terrace topped by a dervish temple, would escape. Again, critical infrastructure would be affected, with the train station well inside the area expected to be lost to the sea.
Another historic city, Saranda, close to the Unesco World Heritage city of Butrint, and an increasingly popular destination for cruise ships, would fare somewhat better, with waters only expected to encroach on small areas of land close to the shore, although many of its famous beaches would be lost.
Estimates of how fast and how far the world’s temperatures are warming vary widely, with estimates ranging from a rise of 1.5°C to as high as 4°C by the end of the century.
The signatories to the Paris Agreement have committed to limiting the rise to less than 2°C by 2100, following a rise of 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) achieving this goal will cost will require emissions to be cut by more than 70% below today’s levels by 2050.
The projections show Albania would be worse affected than its neighbours along the eastern Adriatic, but it is by no means the only country to face devastating consequences as sea levels rise. Recent analysis of Climate Central’s projections by The Guardian shows that hundreds of millions of people face losing their homes should temperatures rise by 3°C — in line with a projection from the UN — and major cities that face being wholly or partly lost to the sea include Alexandria, Miami, Osaka, Rio de Janeiro and Shanghai.