The South Pacific island nation of Kiribati faces an unprecedented threat.
The island nation is poised to fall victim to the ocean around it, as scientists predict that many of its 33 islands will be completely submerged within the next hundred years due to climate change-induced sea level rise.
“We may be beyond redemption,” says Anote Tong, the nation’s president. “We may be at the point of no return, where the emissions in the atmosphere will carry on contributing to climate change, to produce a sea level change so in time our small, low-lying islands will be submerged.”
Tong’s fears are not exaggerated. The highest land in Kiribati barely reaches 1.8 meters (6 feet) above sea level, a height many climate change scientists say will be easily swallowed up by rising oceans.
“We will be submerged by the end of the century, as things stand right now,” Tong foresees. This means that Kiribati’s 103,000 citizens will need to either adapt to rising waters, or flee the country, becoming the first climate change refugees.
An Issue of Human Survival
While climate change represents a looming threat to Kiribati’s future, it is the nation’s current environmental woes that are accelerating its sinking lands.
Although Kiribati is expansive in terms of its area, the country itself has very little land mass. This makes agriculture difficult, and has forced citizens to turn to unsustainable, but high output, subsistence and monoculture farming in recent years to maintain their livelihoods.
These practices have weakened the agricultural yield of Kiribati’s soil, and permanently damaged the land, most notably along the coast. The nation’s agricultural challenges are
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