Kiribati: A Nation That Cannot Adapt To Climate Change
I live in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island (PEI). As the name suggests, we are an island province.
Of all the Canadian provinces, were are the most vulnerable to climate change. The increasing sea temperature and acidity threaten our fishing industry. Lack of winter snow and changes in rain patterns threaten our agricultural industry. Rising sea levels and storms surges threaten our low-lying infrastructure.
And, our island, being made of soft sandstone, is eroding at an increasing rate. In the image below, the vertical post the gentleman is standing next to is the well for someone’s home. Well, it used to be!
And to make things worse, Eastern Canada is actually sinking into the Earth (a reaction to the loss of ice from the last ice age) although, at a much slower rate than sea levels are rising.
Although all of the impacts are of great concern, we can adapt to all these challenges. Our fisherman and our farmers can adapt their practices to the changing conditions. Our infrastructure can be rebuilt to stand higher above the sea. And our coastal homes can be moved away from the eroding shores. It will be difficult, but we can adapt. (In my climate change presentation, I actually make the argument that adaptations such as rebuilding infrastructure would be a great way to stimulate our economy and keep our working men form going to work in the Tar Sands.)
Unfortunately, some places in the world cannot adapt to what climate change has in store for them. A “perfect” example of this is the island nation of Kiribati (pronounced Kiri-bass – “bass” like the fish).
The nation of Kiribati is made of 33 low-lying islands that, at their highest, rise 4 m above sea level. The entire population lives within 1 km of sea and because of the pancake-like flatness of the islands, any increase in sea level quickly moves the water inland. As a result, the leaders of Kiribati are looking to move the entire population off of the islands.
To me, this demonstrates the greatest injustice of climate change: the poorest, smallest countries, the ones that have done the least to cause climate change, are the one that will suffer first and suffer the greatest. To prove my point, in 2005, Kiribati’s carbon emissions were “lower than every other country except one”. And yet, the people of Kiribati will be the first to lose their country to climate change.
The situation in Kiribati should also cause a very important discussion about what happens to nations like Kiribati whose territory is no longer habitable because of our changing climate. Do they become refugees? Do we give them land in another country? Do they become citizens in another country?
I hope you’ll take a moment to watch the short video below describing the situation in Kiribati. And, as usual, I welcome you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.