Republican climate activists visited a disappearing island to convince Americans the threat of sea-level rise is real — these photos show how grave the situation has become

Boys who live on Tangier Island, a sliver of land in Virginia that is disappearing due to climate change-fueled sea level rise.

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Boys who live on Tangier Island, a sliver of land in Virginia that is disappearing due to climate change-fueled sea level rise.
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Christian Storm/Business Insider

Across the United States, communities are seeing the effects of climate change: more severe flooding, rising water levels, and hotter temperatures.

There is one place where climate change is perhaps most imminent. Twelve miles from either coast of the Chesapeake Bay, Tangier Island, Virginia is in danger of disappearing due to sea-level rise.

In June, a delegation of Republican climate activists visited the island to try to convince its residents to take climate change seriously.

Reuters documented the visit and found that residents are not quick to change their minds. The photos below show how serious the problem has become there.

Christian Storm contributed to an earlier version of this story.


Tangier Island has been eroding for over 100 years, but lately, rising water levels and more frequent storms have increased the rate of land loss.

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Destroyed crab shacks are seen in this aerial view over Tangier Island, Virginia.
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Adrees Latif

Since 1850, Tangier has lost 67% of its land mass to erosion, according to a 2015 Army Corps of Engineers study.

Farms have disappeared as a result.


To convince some of the town’s 450 residents to take action, a group of Republican climate activists went to the island in August.

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Former congressman Bob Inglis speaks with an islander.
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Adrees Latif

Two months earlier, President Donald Trump told Tangier Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge that he shouldn’t worry about a rise in sea levels. According to The Daily Times of Salisbury, Maryland, the president’s call was in response to a CNN report about the island.

“He said, ‘Your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more,'” Eskridge told The Daily Times.


“We’ll talk to everybody,” James Eskridge, mayor of the island’s primarily Republican community, said. “But they’re not going to change many minds here.”

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Tangier Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge at the Fisherman’s Corner restaurant on Tangier Island, Virginia, August 2017.
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Adrees Latif

Source: Reuters


According to Eskridge, the majority of residents reject the belief that climate change exists. Many would prefer to receive a new seawall than to consider the long-term effects of carbon emissions on sea-level rise.

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A woman cycles past a house displaying a sign supporting President Trump on Tangier Island, Virginia, August 2017.
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Adrees Latif

In recent years, Tangier Island has become a poster child of the nation’s climate crisis.


This approach to climate change is not unique to Tangier. About a third of Americans do not support regulating pollution from coal-fired power plants, which are large drivers of carbon emissions.

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Tourists arrive by ferry to Tangier Island, Virginia, August 2017.
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Adrees Latif

Source: The Yale Program on Climate Communication


Some scientists predict that Tangier residents will need to abandon the island within decades.

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Local fisherman Rudy Shores sorts through soft shell crabs at his crab shack on Tangier Island, Virginia, August 2017.
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Adrees Latif

In the mid-1800s, Tangier Island encompassed about 2,060 acres. Today, just 791 acres are above water.

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Brandi Tuck of Yorktown searches for arrowheads in the “Uppards” part of Tangier Island, Virginia, August 2017.
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Adrees Latif

Research suggests Tangier is losing nine acres of land a year to erosion and rising tides. As a result, 50 to 100 residents leave the island each year.


When former Business Insider reporter Christian Storm visited Tangier in 2014, he learned that tombstones sit on front lawns of homes due to the island’s lack of space.

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Tangier Island in 2014.
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Christian Storm/Business Insider

Source: Business Insider


In the 2017 photo below, a tombstone lies submerged at the water’s edge in the “Uppards” part of Tangier Island.

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Tangier Island, August 2017.
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Adrees Latif

To many of Tangier’s residents, however, the threat of their island vanishing still seems like a far off future.

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A home on Tangier Island, 2014.
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Christian Storm/Business Insider

“They say in about 100 years, this island’s gonna be disappeared, but I’m not going to college. I’m gonna work on the water here,” one young Tangier Island resident said. “I’m not gonna be living in another 100 years either.”

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A boy who lives on Tangier Island, 2014.
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Christian Storm/Business Insider