Sinking Pacific island Kiribati considers moving to a man-made alternative
A C Grayling
A. C. Grayling is an English philosopher and founder of independent undergraduate college, New College of the Humanities. He is the author of several books including The Refutation of Scepticism (1985), The Meaning of Things (2001) and The Good Book (2011).
Thursday 08 September 2011
The future for Kiribati, one of the low-lying Pacific nations threatened by rising seas, is so dire that the government is contemplating relocating the entire population to man-made islands resembling giant oil rigs.
"We're considering everything... because we are running out of options," the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, said yesterday in Auckland, where he is attending the Pacific Islands Forum. He said that his small, impoverished country – where the highest land is no more than two metres above sea level – urgently needed the world to take action on climate change.
Vulnerable Pacific nations have acquired a powerful new ally, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who visited Kiribati on his way to the Auckland conference. In a speech on Tuesday, Mr Ban warned: "For those who believe climate change is about some distant future, I invite them to Kiribati. Climate change is not about tomorrow. It is lapping at our feet – quite literally in Kiribati and elsewhere." Beachside villages in Kiribati – which consists of 33 coral atolls sprinkled across two million square miles of ocean – have already had to move to escape the encroaching waves. Water supplies have been contaminated by salt water, and crops destroyed. Erosion, caused partly by storms and flooding, is increasingly serious.
Mr Tong said he had seen models of a man-made floating island, similar to an offshore oil platform and costing US$2bn (£1.25bn). While it sounded "like something from science fiction", he said radical ideas had to be considered. "If you're faced with the option of being submerged with your family, what would you do?" he asked. "Would you jump on the rig... on a floating island or not? I think the answer is yes."
Other ideas included building a series of sea walls, at a cost of nearly $1bn. But Mr Tong said it would be up to the international community to fund such projects, and he complained that Kiribati had received little financial aid despite pledges from wealthier nations.
A former British colony called the Gilbert Islands, Kiribati is home to 103,000 people, most of them crammed into the main atoll, Tarawa, a horseshoe-shaped chain of islets surrounding a central lagoon. Like other pancake-flat Pacific nations such as Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands, and Indian Ocean nations such as the Maldives, it faces oblivion as a result of global warming-induced rising sea levels.
Mr Tong said that for i-Kiribati, as his countrymen are known, it was no longer a case of adapting to a changing environment, but of survival. He said Kiribati desperately needed the world to act to reduce carbon emissions.
Mr Ban said his visit to Kiribati had strengthened his view that "something is seriously wrong with our current model of economic development". He said: "We will not succeed in reducing emissions without sustainable energy solutions."
- 1 Universities aren't working us hard enough, say undergraduates
- 2 Lego letter from the 1970s still offers a powerful message to parents 40 years later
- 3 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
£32500 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Electronic Engineer is requi...
Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: LEICESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL SOLICITOR- An o...
£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support organisation focuses on ...
£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Support Analyst / IT Support Analys...