There are those that see the threats posed by global warming as insignificant. However, for the citizens of Kiribati, an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean, climate change is a major, immediate threat.
According to conservation.org, Kiribati President Anote Tong said that climate change and rising sea levels threaten the island’s land and Kiribati’s citizens’ way of life. As a result, the I-Kiribati, as the citizens of the country call themselves, may have to turn to other countries for assistance.
The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected a sea level increase of .4 meters within this century, posing a problem to the country, whose elevation is no more than two meters above sea level.
“We will lose our homes. The islands will lose their ability to sustain life,” Tong said at a press event in Boston in 2008.
Within the next 20 years, Tong hopes to efficiently evacuate his nation of 110,360 people. He is working with countries such as New Zealand and Australia, so that once the I-Kiribati inhabit these new countries, they will have the option to fulfill some of the jobs those countries have trouble filling.
On March 7, 2012 Tong met with members of Fiji’s government to discuss a relocation plan for the I-Kiribati.
“This is the last resort, there’s no way out of this one,” Tong said in an interview with The Telegraph. “Our people will have to move as the tides have reached our homes and villages.”
The I-Kiribati are already experiencing things that they have never seen before, such as prolonged drought, destruction of the coast, and coral bleaching.
For years, Tong has been trying to raise awareness of the harmful effects of global warming; however, he says it has been difficult to get people to listen, in part because the international community has been distracted by security and terrorism concerns.
Kiribati is not the only country to be threatened by rising sea levels. Many more nations will have to begin to consider how to adapt to drastic climate changes. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated the sea levels during the twenty-first century will rise another 18 to 59 centimeters.
“It is indeed pleasing to note that climate change is finally being given due recognition as a security issue,” Tong said in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly in 2008. “…I am deeply concerned that there has never been a discussion of the fate of humans whose very existence is seriously undermined by climate change.”
– Julie Goodfriend, Arts and Entertainment Editor