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14 islands threatened by climate change

By: Katherine Butler on Jan. 10, 2018, 11:44 a.m.
Kiribati aerial view

Photo: Rafael Ávila Coya/flickr

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Republic of Kiribati

The Pacific Ocean holds the nation of Kiribati, a 266-square-mile republic on 32 atolls and one island. With a population of about 100,000, this archipelago of coral atolls covers an oceanic expanse equal to the size of the United States. Most of the island nation does not lie more than a couple of meters above sea level. For this reason, its residents are greatly concerned about the impact of warming seas.

In 2012, then-President Anote Tong revealed that his cabinet had endorsed a plan to buy nearly 6,000 acres on Viti Levu, Fiji's main island. The plan is to move the entire population off Kiribati. "It wouldn't be for me, personally, but would apply more to a younger generation," Tong said. "For them, moving won't be a matter of choice. It's basically going to be a matter of survival."

As of today, the land purchased during Tong's tenure is farmland, and there isn't much political appetite for relocation, both in Fiji and in Kiribati's current president Taneti Maamau. Maamau's administration has refocused on domestic policies and economic plans as a way to increase quality of life on the island.