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Shamed by Kiribati

Written By: - Date published: 10:52 am, October 4th, 2010 - 19 comments
Categories: climate change, International, sustainability - Tags:

Never heard of Kiribati? Well you have now:

As a tiny island nation makes a big sacrifice, will the rest of the world follow suit?

Kiribati, a small nation consisting of 33 Pacific island atolls, is forecast to be among the first countries swamped by rising sea levels. Nevertheless, the country recently made an astounding commitment: it closed over 150,000 square miles of its territory to fishing, an activity that accounts for nearly half the government’s tax revenue. What moved the tiny country to take this monumental action? President Anote Tong, says Kiribati (“Kir-ee-bas”) is sending a message to the world: “We need to make sacrifices to provide a future for our children and grandchildren.”

That is leadership that puts the “developed” world to shame. Isn’t it interesting that it is so often those who have the least, who give the most.

Kiribati looks to make the ultimate sacrifice by mid-century, when much of the country is projected to be largely uninhabitable. Rising seas will contaminate freshwater supplies, ruin agriculture lands, and erode beaches and villages, forcing its people to flee. Kiribati has done nothing to earn this fate—its greenhouse gas emissions are negligible and its population barely tops 100,000. …

Variations on this story are going to be played out again and again in the coming decades. There ain’t no justice.

19 comments on “Shamed by Kiribati ”

  1. Mr Magoo 1

    Commendable action for sure.

    Please note that it took their island becoming unstoppably uninhabitable in the near future for them to take it. Rather than a shame it should be a warning.

    I am sure it is one everyone will take on board…

    • r0b 1.1

      Huh? As far as I can see the fishing decision and the impending climate change impact are unrelated issues. They’re making fishing sacrifices for their grandchildren, apparently irrespective of whether or not those grandchildren will be able to live on Kiribati…

      • Mr Magoo 1.1.1

        You need to read the article closer:

        “As a country on the frontline of climate change, we are going to be one of the first affected by the lack of action by others. So we are asking people to run the extra mile on the weekend, to make sacrifices.

        To this end, Kiribati has made a sacrifice. We established PIPA, which closed much of our territorial waters to fishing. We had to fight our own internal political battles and opinion on this decision, but it is a very large statement on our part.”

        I think it is pretty clear that the two are not just linked casually…

  2. ianmac 2

    As I understand it Asian fishing fleets have for years fished/overfished the waters around Kiribati for decades. Will they heed a closure? Will the staple food supply be restored to Kiribati? Doubt it.

  3. When the country is swamped I imagine the 150,000 sq. miles will become international waters again?

  4. Joe Bloggs 4

    FFS if it’s not the sky-is-falling meme, then it’s the sea-is-rising meme!

    Chicken Little needs to do more research.

    Earlier this year Auckland University geographer Paul Kench showed that Kiribati’s actually growing not sinking.

    Kench measured 27 islands, where local sea levels have risen at an average rate of 2mm a year over the past 60 years, and found that just four had diminished in size. The islands of Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia are among those which have grown, because of coral debris and sediment.

    The dynamic response of reef islands to sea-level rise: Evidence from multi-decadal analysis of island change in the Central Pacific
    Arthur P. Webb, Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission, SOPAC, Fiji
    Paul S. Kench, School of Environment, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
    February 2010

    • r0b 4.1

      Chicken Little needs to do more research

      Head in the sand needs to do more research too. Start with the projected sea level rises as the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets go.

      • Joe Bloggs 4.1.1

        Kench’s research includes the scientific evaluation of real data. The projected sea level rises from ice sheet melting are forward looking models.

        One is stuff that’s actually happened, the other is speculation.

        Kench demonstrates that despite the increases in sea levels that these islands have actually increased in size. The ice sheet meltists speculate about what might happen.

        If my head’s in the sand because a scientific study disproves the claims that Kiribati is sinking, then yours must surely be wedged right up your arse.

  5. ianmac 5

    I remember a TV documentary on this recently Joe Bloggs. Though it seems that it is not the risk from “rising sea levels” so much as the increasing sea surges from changing climate. A once in a decade surge which threatens the islands is much more serious if it is several per year.

    • insider 5.1

      I think you mean storm surge not sea surge.

      What causes storm surges? Well large storms.The WMO says there is a lot of debate about whether there is/going to be an increase in frequency or intensity of storms.

      • lprent 5.1.1

        World Met Org ? Do you have a link for that?

        I’d be very surprised if that is what they said. If you accept that there will be be an overall increase in energy contained in the climate (which they did last time I looked), then you’re also going to get higher differentials in energy. Since weather patterns are largely driven by energy differentials, you’d have to assume some pretty serious changes in the current weather patterns to dissipate the differentials if you don’t assume increases in either frequency or intensity.

        In fact I can’t see what other effects you could reasonably expect. This does sound a bit like another Watts level of scientific illiteracy coming on… *sigh* (usually known as a WattsUp wankfest).

        Re-reading your comment, I bet that they’re talking about the ongoing discussion about which of the two would increase the most (rather than if they would increase at all).

        But in the end, either (or any mix between) would cause major problems for island nations. They don’t fish (main protein source) during storms if they can avoid them – you tend to drown. So a major reduction in fishing time is as bad as getting washed away in storm surges.

        • Joe Bloggs

          According to the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-AR4), globally “[t]here is no clear trend in the annual numbers [i.e. frequency] of tropical cyclones.”

          • lprent

            Still living in the past I see. The data in the IPCC 4th report was from prior to 2005 and is pretty out of date now.

            Besides, as far as I can see from the available information, it appears that the intensity of the storms is increasing rather than the frequency. This is the worse of the the two alternatives.

  6. nadis 6

    Whats the connection between global warming/rising sea level and closing half of their fishing grounds?

    And was Kiribati so highly principled and devoted to the wellness of the earth when they voted for the expansion of scientific whaling back at the last IWC? Bribes not much.

    Kiribati has been playing Taiwan off against China (and vice versa), and sucking on the Japanese whaling vote buying teat for years. And not much of that money is finding its way to Kiribati, most of it will be sitting in Singaporean private bank accounts owned by the political elite in Kiribati.


    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      Great blame a poor peoples who are making tough choices as they are facing their extinction and just trying to create a means for some kind of future which has already been decided for them by external powers.

  7. nadis 7

    viper – if more of the money actually filtered down to the people I’d be more sanguine. Unfortunately its an exercise in politicians enriching themselves.

    Nice to see you condoning graft.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      It does seem to be the same old unfortunate story. An elite ruling class taking up all the spaces in the life boats leaving everyone else to sink.

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