Those who argue that the effects of global warming have been “Hollywoodized” by celebrities such as Al Gore, and popular media outlets, will likely rethink their statements after reading about the fate of the island of Kiribati. ABC News aired an in depth report about Kiribati’s future this evening.
Kiribati is situated at an elevation of six feet, and with each passing day its footprint above the sea is shrinking. While the ocean will not simply rise fifty feet overnight, any change in sea level threatens the livelihood of the flora and fauna on this island due to its small size and incredibly close proximity to the ocean. Ocean water kills any land-based flora within fifty feet of its path, and the vegetation inland is dying back more each day. Homes are being relocated, and the number of Kiribati refugees is increasing daily. Equally important, the President of Kiribati reports that the island will likely become completely submerged by mid-century, a timeframe that is very scary; it is unlikely that this nation can be kept from sinking entirely.
New Zealand is the only country to currently publicly accept climate change refugees. New Zealand accepts 75 refugees from Kiribati per year, while the President grimly reported that tens of thousands of citizens will lose their homes.
And what will happen to these people, their sovereignty, their identity – as climate change literally removes their homeland from the surface of the earth? They have no military forces, and their consumption of natural resources is very low in comparison with other nations (including adjustment for population size). Surely they must be impossibly frustrated, as elevated levels of greenhouse gases from others’ activities are destroying their home. The President brought his concerns to the U.N.; while the rich may be able to insulate themselves from the problem initially, this is a global humanitarian crisis that we must face together.