Kiribati: A Sinking Paradise Counting Down The Hours

On September 5, 2013 by Tim Newman

Kiribati - From The Air - Global Warming Victim - Climate Change

Kiribati is an island nation famous for lying close to the date line and, consequently, being the first to greet each new year, but that’s generally where their fame stops; until recently. Kiribati is now at the cutting edge of global warming’s unerring creep forwards.

The islands consist of about 100,000 people living on 811 square km of land, spread over 3.5 million km. Its 33 atolls and coral islands are at the cutting edge of climate change. In a similar way that Kivalina is effected in the far north (read about Kivalina sinking here). These guys, nestled near the equator are feeling the watery pinch of an ever infringing coast line.

Kiribati - Map - Pacific Ocean Island Chain - Global Warming Victim - Climate Change

The photo below demonstrates Kiribati’s precarious situation more than a million of my sentences ever could:

Kiribati sinking into the sea

The Kiribati islands lie half way-ish between Hawaii and Fiji and are some of the most remote places on earth. They also have a brilliant flag:

(Click here if you’d like to see more of my favourite flags).

Kiribati - Flag

Kiribati’s Economy

The islander’s economy is mostly dependent on fishing, agriculture and selling dried coconut flesh. They also have some money left in the coffers from a once profitable phosphate mining industry, but mostly survive now on the basics and foreign aid.

Although they would like to increase tourism, there are no regular flights, and if you wanted to fly from London, England you’d be talking £4,000 return. Which is a little steep.

Kiribati - Sand Bars - Global Warming Victim - Climate Change

Coral Reliance

The people of Kiribati rely on coral to protect their shallow shores; unfortunately, a decline in coral health is having a direct impact on their already shrinking lands, not to mention their dinner tables. Fish will only hang about where the coral is looking good. They’re fussy like that.

The drop in coral health seems to be tied to a temperature rise, a hike of just 1 degree Celsius is enough to trigger coral death.

Kiribati - Spit town  - Global Warming Victim - Climate Change

The President of Kiribati’s View

The President of Kiribati – Anote Tong – said this in an interview in 2013:

“For a long time people saw flooding and other damage as acts of God. But now some people are coming to the realization that sea levels are rising, and it’s only going to get worse. People are mobilizing. They want help. Now there is a feeling that the people who contribute most to the problem should be part of the solution.”

Kiribati - Spit  - Global Warming Victim - Climate Change

He describes a general feeling of frustration that they are facing the imminent destruction of their entire country, and the people who are to blame just keep on churning out the stuff that we now think causes it. The West has a winge at China and India every so often for kicking out too many emissions but conveniently forget that we started it in the first place. Get a grip.

Trees near Tarawa dying due to encroaching sea water.

Trees near Tarawa dying due to encroaching sea water.

The end is so crushingly imminent that the President has already asked its nearest neighbours if they would set aside lands so that his people could be moved en masse rather than scattered globally and lose their identity.

The islanders have already started a programme that trains the young for a potential future in Australia. It’s a sad time for the islanders indeed.






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