Monday, 16 February 2009 10:59 AM

Kiribati Seeks Relocation as Climate Change Sets In

The island nation of Kiribati is following in the steps of the Maldives by preparing for relocation for its people as the rising sea level threatens to submerge the nation.

Late last year, the Maldives' newly-elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, announced the nation's plans to buy land for the relocation of its people due to sea level rise, an effect of global warming and climate change.
Now the regional island of Kiribati, through its president, Anote Tong, is following suit. According to the Australia Network News, President Tong 'is reportedly looking to purchase land in other countries so it can relocate communities that are in danger of being submerged by rising sea levels'.

However, according to ScienceNews (www.sciencenews.org), President Tong 'is not optimistic about getting new land elsewhere, so he has proposed a different solution: starting to send his citizens offshore now, before they are forced to evacuate later'.

'He is already asking for help from nearby countries, including Australia and New Zealand, to train a steady stream of Kiribati's younger people in skilled professions such as nursing, with an initial target of training about 1,000 annually. He wants these citizens to lead the way in finding jobs and permanent new homes abroad'.

The following excerpt is taken from the ScienceNews article:

"There is a need for direct attention to the human dimension," Tong said last fall in Cambridge, Mass., at a public lecture sponsored by the Harvard University Center for the Environment. He called climate change "the most fundamental moral challenge for humans in this century. The future of real people is on the line."

Even a marginal increase in sea level would be disastrous for his country, he said. Warning signs are already appearing, including higher tides and coastal flooding, less rainfall and diminishing freshwater supplies, as well as bleaching of some coral reefs that cradle Kiribati's islands. He said that increased flooding had already forced some villagers to move inland, but that this short trip is a temporary solution since "we're in danger of falling off if we keep moving back." (Many of the country's islands are so narrow that there really is no place to go.) Kiribati has roughly 100,000 citizens and its capital city, Tarawa, suffers from severe overcrowding.

"The reality is that we have to find alternative homes," Tong said. "The levels already in the atmosphere cannot be reversed."


According to the Australia News Network, 'President Tong says alternatively there should be an international commitment that allows countries that are willing to provide land to be compensated'.

'Much of Kiribati is no higher than five meters above sea level and the ocean around it's 21 inhabited islands have been rising around five millimetres a year since 1991.'