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Nation of Kiribati Relocating Due to Rising Sea Levels

Nation of Kiribati Relocating Due to Rising Sea Levels

The world’s first climate refugees are getting ready to leave the island nation of Kiribati. Anote Tong, the Kiribati president, announced today that he’s in talks with the government of Fiji and looking to buy up to 5,000 acres of land for the people of Kiribati to settle.

The nation is home to 113,000 people, most of whom live and work on the Tarawa chain of islets. The nation consists of 32 coral atolls and one coral island straddling the equator, only 313 square miles in all, none of which are more than a few feet above sea level. Some of these atolls are already beginning to sink beneath the rising waves.

Mr. Tong told the Telegraph, “This is the last resort, there’s no way out of this one. Our people will have to move as the tides have reached our homes and villages.”

Right now, the government is trying to send only skilled workers to Fiji. Hopefully, this will allow them to assimilate as productive members of society, reducing resentment or discrimination from the locals. His administration has launched an “Education for Migration”¯ program, aimed at teaching the population job skills to make them more attractive immigrants to other nations like Fiji.

Mr. Tong explained his plan on the state-run Fiji One television channel as such:

“We don’t want 100,000 people from Kiribati coming to Fiji in one go,” he told the state-run Fiji One television channel.

“They need to find employment, not as refugees but as immigrant people with skills to offer, people who have a place in the community, people who will not be seen as second-class citizens.

“What we need is the international community to come up with an urgent funding package to deal with that ambition, and the needs of countries like Kiribati.”

Many of the islanders are concerned that their unique culture will be lost when the population moves. It’s not clear exactly what will happen when the population of an entire nation is forced to migrate. What we do know is this: this will not be the last time an island nation is forced to make difficult decisions in order to cope with climate change.

Legal scholars have yet to determine what the ramifications of such a move would be — will the evacuated islanders still be citizens of their former nation? Do they still control the waters surrounding the submerged land? No one really knows.


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Photo credit: KevGuy4101

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9:49AM PST on Nov 25, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

2:49AM PDT on Jun 11, 2012

I'm wishing the best of luck to the people of Kiribati!!

11:35AM PDT on May 10, 2012

A floating island.

7:49AM PDT on May 10, 2012

Would it be feasible to buy several barges, fill them with compost, moor them at Kiribati, and move vertically instead of horizontally? They would also need some houseboats and some sturdy rafts for infrastructure including a way to extract potable water from sea water.

5:43AM PDT on Mar 15, 2012

Thanks for the article.

10:58PM PDT on Mar 14, 2012

David L. says "And some people don't believe in climate change"

And they won't until it "jumps up and bites them in the ass."

6:50PM PDT on Mar 14, 2012


4:05AM PDT on Mar 14, 2012

Thanks for the information,

2:22AM PDT on Mar 14, 2012

Best wishes to the people of Kiribati. This will not have gone unnoticed in the South Pacific as Kiribati is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum that meets together on a regular basis to discuss issues concerning the regions of the South Pacific. So the talks with Fiji will be keenly watched and observed. I feel for these people, hopefully the rise in sea level will not be critical as reported.

11:57AM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

The poors payings the rich countries blame

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