One of the many effects of climate change concerns the rising of the world’s oceans. As both climate scientists and one country’s president realize, Kiribati, a low-lying nation in the Pacific Ocean, will likely become non-existent within the upcoming decades.
Kiribati is home to some 100,000 people. Located in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and Hawaii, it consists of 33 small islands and atolls scattered over an area the size of India.
On average, the nation loses 3.7 millimeters of land a year due to rising water. President Anote Tong said the country could be completely uninhabitable within less than 60 years.
In fact, the county has already purchased nearly 6,000 acres of land in Fiji to address economic and food security issues. The government said in a May press release that the land is “an investment by the government to explore options of commercial, industrial and agricultural undertakings.”
Since 1880, global sea levels have risen nearly 10 inches. By the end of the century, scientists believe the seas could rise nearly three feet.
One of the islands in the country is Tarawa, known by most of the world as a World War II battle site among the Japanese and Americans. Because so much of the population lives on top of the island’s main water lens, where fresh drinking water lies, it is difficult for the island’s inhabitants to find a place to defecate. Health officials estimate that nearly 60 percent of Tarawa residents defecate outdoors.
Since the nation may soon be completely submerged, the government has found it difficult to find any substantial investors. In fact, the U.S. does not have an ambassador for the country. Instead, the U.S. ambassador of Fiji also serves Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu.
Moreover, for the Kiribati residents who may choose to evacuate the country in the coming years, the situation may become difficult.
In the past, New Zealand permitted 75 Kiribati citizens into the country each year so long as they met the necessary visa requirements. However, the country recently ruled against a Kiribati man who requested to become a refugee in the country on the grounds of climate change.
Yet, much of the country is increasingly skeptic of climate change due to religious purposes. In a census several years ago accounting for over 90,000 Kiribati citizens, only 23 stated they did not follow a religious practice.
In an interview conducted with Businessweek, Tong said the Western world has not focused enough attention on effects of rising oceans and climate change.
“Ecoterrorism is equal to terrorism,” he said. “This is a kind of terrorism that is more dangerous in one way, because it is treated as legitimate and acceptable. Maybe 10 years ago, they didn’t know what they were doing. But it’s not an excuse any longer.”
– Ethan Safran
Sources: Net Nebraska, Business Week, NPR, NY Times, Kiribati Climate Change
Photo: Net Nebraska