Goldberg reports from the South Pacific island nation of Kiribati, a “flyspeck of a United Nations member state” where locals are nervously eyeing the rising waters:
If scientists are correct, the ocean will swallow most of Kiribati before the end of the century, and perhaps much sooner than that. … Before the rising Pacific drowns these atolls, though, it will infiltrate, and irreversibly poison, their already inadequate supply of fresh water. The apocalypse could come even sooner for Kiribati if violent storms, of the sort that recently destroyed parts of the Philippines, strike its islands. For all of these reasons, the 103,000 citizens of Kiribati may soon become refugees, perhaps the first mass movement of people fleeing the consequences of global warming rather than war or famine.
This is why [Kiribati’s president Anote] Tong visits Fiji so frequently. He is searching for a place to move his people. The government of Kiribati recently bought 6,000 acres of land in Fiji for a reported $9.6 million, to the apparent consternation of Fiji’s military rulers. Fiji has expressed no interest in absorbing the I-Kiribati, as the country’s people are known. A former president of Zambia, in south-central Africa, once offered Kiribati’s people land in his country, but then he died. No one else so far has volunteered to organize a rescue.
More bad news for the I-Kiribati: New Zealand recently denied a Kiribati citizen’s high-profile bid f0r refugee status.
(Photo: A scene in South Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati. By Australian Aid)