Kiribati, an Island nation of the Pacific with an average of two meters above sea level is one of major target of climate change. Being an Island nation with a ‘strange’ geographic feature, Kiribati is a stretch of thirty three atoll islands across the Pacific Ocean and the islands are so low, that from the water (while sailing) they seem to vanish in the deep blue ocean.
Experiencing the threats of climate change is a daily routine for the inhabitants of Kiribati. The rise in sea level leads to huge destructive waves alongside the coast of the islands, and by coasts, I don’t only mean the sea walls, but houses, vegetation and infrastructure. Speaking of high waves, Cyclone Pam brushed past Kiribati last year and the islands were battered by the storm and as a result, a lot of their infrastructure had been taken down. Cyclone Pam not only went past Kiribati, but also affected Vanuatu (a direct hit) , Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Fiji, New Caledonia and New Zealand.
But the point that I’m trying to make here is that even though TC Pam was not a direct hit for Kiribati, it caused a great devastation for the islanders. Seawalls had been destroyed, traditional houses near the ocean were gone and 253,000 inhabitants had to be evacuated. It’s not hard to imagine what could happen in the next 5-10 to an Island which is just 2m above the sea level.
A flooded traditional house alongside coast of Tarawa Beach. Source: Google Images
Storm surge on Tarawa Beach, Kiribati. Source: Google Images.
So where am I getting at?
Kiribati is one of the world’s poorest countries. It has few natural resources. What I’m trying to say is that it is hard for a small Island nation as such to get their pieces together after a disaster occurs. It is hard to re-start life again. With the rise of sea levels, a number of wells have salt water in it- It is hard for the residents to get access to fresh drinking water; increase in salinity of the farming land therefore it is hard to grow crops; residents’ habits of altering the shoreline and removing coastal protections can magnify the impacts of the swelling oceans, leaving villages more exposed to flooding.
So basically what I am saying is that, for Kiribati, Climate change is a lived reality and there’s no running away from it. A recent study study by the University of Colorado estimates that even if carbon dioxide emissions are stabilized, sea level will continue to rise as high as two meters by the end of the century.
Anote Tong, the president of Kiribati has been sounding alarm internationally that his country is disappearing (check out the video at the bottom for full detail). In the recent Conference of Parties held at Paris (COP 21), Tong managed to get his voice across the international platform in order to speak for his countries dilemma.