While for most of us the threat of rising sea levels caused by global warming is just a topic of discussion, for the people who live on the island of Kiribati it could be a life-threatening situation - One that could submerge their tiny nation forever. While that may not be anywhere in the near future, their progressive President is taking no chances. He already has a back-up plan in mind - Relocating his people to a different country!
Though that may seem a little extreme, Kiribati, that lies across the equator close to the International Date Line is in serious danger of disappearing even if water levels climb slightly. That's because many of its atolls lie just a few feet above sea level. In fact, with seawater encroaching its underground fresh water supply, the island is already beginning to feel the impact. Not only that, the weather, tidal and storm patterns have changed dramatically and are beginning to pose a serious threat to the livelihood of the 100,000+ people who call the islands home.
Over the years, the officials have thought about many different options ranging from building sea walls to even creating a whole new floating island. While the former, which they are going to implement around some of the really lower lying areas will provide a temporary solution, the latter was too expensive for the poor country. So, when the nation's president, Anote Tong heard about a church group that was trying to sell about 6,000 acres of fertile land on the nearby Fijian island of Viti Levy for 9.6 million USD, he decided to bid for it.
The sale still has be approved by the Fijian authorities who may not be thrilled at the prospect of having Kiribati's 103,000 residents showing up on their islands and settling there some day in the future. The president is hoping they will agree so that he can provide a sure-proof insurance policy for his people - One that they will hopefully never have to cash in.
The Republic of Kiribati comprises of 32 atolls and one raised coral island dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometers in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. With an annual GDP of about $1600 USD per person, it is one of the world's poorest nations. Fortunately however, there are some foreign reserves left from phosphate mining in the 1970's, which is what the president is planning to use to buy the land in Fiji.
Rising sea levels pose a real threat to not just Kiribati, but also, a number of islands in the Pacific and other low lying areas around the world. Though the water is currently rising by only about 2 millimeters a year, scientists believe that the pace will accelerate rapidly in the near future, thanks to continued impact from global warming. We sure hope not!
Resources: Yahoo.com, wikipedia.com,inhabitat.com