Climate Change Killing Pacific Island Nation

Businessweek profiles Kiribati, a desperate, sinking, place

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 1, 2013 2:35 PM CST

(Newser) – Kiribati in the central Pacific looks like a dream vacation spot. But for its 103,000 citizens, the turquoise water surrounding the nation's 33 islands is ever creeping. Before the end of this century, it will drown most of the 310 square miles of land the I-Kiribati live on, scientists say, sparking "perhaps the first mass movement of people fleeing the consequences of global warming," Jeffrey Goldberg writes for Businessweek. Already seawalls are collapsing and saltwater is seeping through the soil. The people read the Book of Genesis and envision building an ark, but in the meantime, they pray for protection... from climate change.

"Climate change is the ultimate gift of the West, of those who produce greenhouse gasses, to the people of Kiribati, who don't," Goldberg writes. "All it takes is one wave," a resident told him. "The ocean went back out in Hurricane Sandy, but one day it won't. It will stay," said President Anote Tong, who purchased 6,000 acres in Fiji as a possible new base. When it does stay, it will be "migration with dignity." People will look for work in other countries, but "we want to stay home." He adds, "Ecoterrorism is equal to terrorism. 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." The full feature is worth a read.

Tarawa atoll, Kiribati, seen from above.
Tarawa atoll, Kiribati, seen from above.   (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
A man fishes on a bridge on Tarawa atoll, Kiribati.
A man fishes on a bridge on Tarawa atoll, Kiribati.   (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
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