Kiribati: Island nation deals with the consequences of climate change

Vacant land is at a premium on Tarawa atoll, capital of the vast archipelago nation of Kiribati.

Where do you see yourself in 2030?

For most, the first answer to mind won't have anything to do with fleeing your homeland to escape from drowning. But for the more than 103,000 people who live on Kiribati, escaping rising waters might be their only option for survival.

Kiribati is a an island-nation in the Pacific Ocean that, in recent years, has seen the waters rise due to global climate change. In some areas, it has already overtaken small huts and warehouses. 

Jeffrey Goldberg recently visited the islands and says the people speak about the dire situation rather poetically. 

"The people who live in these places say some variation of the theme of, 'In the past the ocean would come in and it would go out'," Goldberg says. "And one day the ocean just stayed."

Goldberg writes about the country's struggle against climate change and their call to developed nations in Bloomberg Businessweek.

About the author

Lizzie O'Leary is the new host of Marketplace Weekend.
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All of the stuff about global climate change is irrelevant. Goldburg's articles still grossly misrepresents what is going on in Kribati. Variations in the local sea level have little to do with rising sea levels. Read the article in the April 24,2012 copy of the AGU EOS, "Sea level rise and the ongoing battle of Tarawa" and look at the satellite measurement record at UC Boulder. Gobal sea level IS rising. It has been rising since about 1850, at a linear rate of 1.8 mm, and now at 3mm/yr. It started rising long before there was enough CO2 to do anything, and doesn't follow an exponential curve at all. The sea level at Tarawa varied by almost half a meter the last time that El Nino switched for La Nina. Looking at the local sea level won't tell you anything about Global Sea Level.

Interesting that you assumed that I don't believe Global Climate Change is occurring, or that I don't believe that humans are a major factor in said change. I wholeheartedly believe it is occurring, and that humans have a major hand in it.
It is NOT, however, the only story going on here, and to blame everything on carbon dioxide is a catastrophic mistake. Coral atolls recede into the ocean all the time. That is why they have lagoons. Land subsides because the underlaying water aquifer gets sucked dry all the time. And if you totally cure ocean rise, but the land on these islands is sinking because they are sucking the fresh water out of their aquifer, you won't have solved anything for them. I'm not saying that climate change is not happening. I'm saying that if that is the only lens through which you look at all the environmental problems in the world, you will probably miss the real issues. Lake Chad is not drying up because of global climate change (despite what Al Gore said in his movie), it is drying up because most of the rivers are being diverted to provide irrigation for cotton farming. And so on.

Harmon - global warming is happening, and all of your idiotic nay-saying doesn't change that. Why so angry anyways? The study of climate change isn't fringe science, though some of the "debunkers" are bigtime practitioners of phony, corporate-funded anti-science campaigns so they can delay their day of reckoning for as long as possible. We humans pump out a minimum of 30 billion tons of CO2 into our atmosphere every year. You think this won't have a destabilizing impact at some point? And what about ocean acidification, which is even more irrefutable??? Some day people like you will pull your collective heads out. Hopefully it won't be too late when you do. Understand that I'm not anti-capitalist. I run two businesses.

Interesting followup to previous stories about the plight of this island nation. Would have been much more recognizable to most of us old folks out here if you'd mentioned in passing that the main island also carries the moniker of Christmas Island . . . .

I am appalled at this poor excuse for propaganda masquerading as reporting. Are you a paid shill for democratic global warming cultists? Jeffrey Goldblum's article in Businessweek told more about the problems of this island nation - pollution, destruction of the main island by phosphate mining, and another by nuclear testing, overpopulation and their culture that promotes publicly defecating in the lagoon they also fish in - and avoiding any type of sanitary sewage treatment. It also highlights the local christian culture waiting for God to save them and blaming others for their predicament, so their culture does not have to change. Your translation of that to radio instead totally focused on the issue of sea rise caused by developed countries causing global warming.
When have we in the industrialized-developed-countries become the guarantors that others never have to change their cultures? We live on a dynamic planet. People have to change in response to new situations all the time. Whether the new situation is caused by other humans, or natural forces, or even themselves is largely immaterial. What if the ocean inundating their islands is caused, not by the ocean rise, but instead by the subsidence of the land because they have been using the water from the underground reservoirs? There are records of that happening throughout the world. See: Mexico City, or Venice, Italy, or ask at any university geology department. But was that mentioned? No, because the reporter was too busy sucking down the koolai . . . er, buying the au courant fashionable narrative of climate change and ocean level rise.
The Kiribati islands have been only a couple of feet above sea level for centuries, probably millenia, yet suddenly I'm responsible to pay people who live there to be able to continue to live in the manner in which they have become accustomed? What? Pardon me while I go to my second job so I can afford to live in my one room apartment after my divorce and bankruptcy. Nobody is guaranteeing that I don't have to change to respond to altered circumstances.

Geeez, are we unhappy with life or what? There are two facts here that you seem to conveniently ignore. 1) Global warming is really happening, and 2) sea levels worldwide are in fact rising. To be sure there are other factors at work regarding this island nation and its plight, but it is obviously more convenient to put down both the reporter and the nation rather than confront the fact that these people are facing a big problem. Sorry that you are divorced and bankrupt. Been there, done that. So what else is troubling you? NO ONE said or implied that you are responsible to, as you put it, "to pay people who live there." Get off your pity pot and get a life. There are plenty of others out here that are in far worse circumstances than yours . . .

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