Sometimes, when we talk about the consequences of global warming, it feels as though it’s an intellectual exercise. Maybe the winters seem a little warmer. Maybe we know that the sea-level will rise. But that’s all down the road, and maybe, we can change the direction upward direction of the global temperature.
But for a small country in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it is not an academic discussion, it is a matter of the existence of the country. The Republic of Kiribati is a group of atolls and one coral island located along the equator in the Pacific, about 4500 km (2800 mi) north of New Zealand. The country has only about 100,000 residents spread over literally thousands of miles. It is famous for the Battle of Tarawa, one of the most bloody battles for the US Marines during WWII in the Pacific.
The country only averages about 2 m (around 6 ft) above sea level, so the rising sea-level is something that matters every day of their life. Based on current models, much of the land will be underwater by 2100. However, with the sea rise, salt water is infiltrating farmland and fresh-water supplies; the residents could have to leave much sooner than expected. So the country is negotiating with the neighboring (and in this part of the Pacific, “neighbor” means thousands of miles away) country of Fiji to purchase land for Kiribati residents.
A whole nation, along with its culture and people, may be lost forever thanks to the effects of global warming. It’s probably too late to save Kiribati, but if we don’t change the pathway of global warming, of course, it’ll be Florida, New York City, London, and numerous other centers of population.