Year 3, Month 3, Day 15: Any Port In A Storm, Right?

USA Today gives us this story, of the Kiribatians who are planning ahead:

Fearing that climate change could wipe out their entire Pacific archipelago, the leaders of Kiribati are considering an unusual backup plan: moving the populace to Fiji.

Kiribati President Anote Tong told the Associated Press on Friday that his Cabinet this week endorsed a plan to buy nearly 6,000 acres on Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu. He said the fertile land, being sold by a church group for about $9.6 million, could be insurance for Kiribati’s entire population of 103,000, though he hopes it will never be necessary for everyone to leave.

“We would hope not to put everyone on one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it,” Tong said. “It wouldn’t be for me, personally, but would apply more to a younger generation. For them, moving won’t be a matter of choice. It’s basically going to be a matter of survival.”

Kiribati, which straddles the equator near the international date line, has found itself at the leading edge of the debate on climate change because many of its atolls rise just a few feet above sea level.

Naturally, their carbon footprint is utterly negligible. Sent March 9:

When rising ocean levels make Kiribati a danger zone, and the island nation’s population moves en masse to Fiji, will they all become Fijian citizens? Will Fiji donate a small fraction of its total area to the climate refugees, allowing them to re-establish a sovereign state? And for that matter, what’s going to happen to Fiji as climate change keeps melting polar ice over the next century? Given that poor nations contribute hardly anything to the greenhouse emissions that have triggered their predicament, should the industrialized nations take responsibility for the damage they’ve caused?

These questions are novel enough to us now, but the coming decades in a climatically transformed world are going to alter international relationships in new and complex ways. At some point, the world community must realize that the options available to Kiribati’s citizens don’t scale upward; there’s no “Planet B” where we can all find refuge.

Warren Senders

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