Climate Change Forcing Entire Pacific Island Nation of Kiribati to Relocate
Rising sea levels caused by the melting of the planet’s polar ice caps and glaciers are forcing the low-lying island nation of Kiribati to plan the mass relocation of the entire population to other countries.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Kiribati President Anote Tong has announced officials are looking at land on Vanua Levu, in Fiji. Tong said that mass relocation was a “last resort” but a number of Kiribati’s atolls have already been swallowed up by rising seas.
”This is the last resort, there’s no way out of this one,” Tong declared. ”Our people will have to move as the tides have reached our homes and villages.”
Kiribati, home to 102,000 people over 32 atolls spread out across an area of the Pacific Ocean roughly the size of the continental United States, has also begun implementing emergency education programs to train citizens and make them more desirable to other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand.
Tong said the mass evacuation will not happen all at once. A small group of skilled workers will go first, laying the foundation for others to follow. It is important that the first group establish themselves as valued members of Fijian society so that all the migrants are not seen as second-class citizens.
“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,” Tong said in a televised address to the nation “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.”
Kiribati isn’t the only low-lying nation whose very existence is threatened by rising sea levels caused by climate change. The president of the Maldives has declared his intention to relocate the entire island nation’s population of 370,000. At least 15 other island countries also face inundation. And not only small island nations are in danger– Bangladesh and Egypt face existential threats from rising sea levels as well.
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