A small, South Pacific nation is facing the very real possibility of having to relocate all of its citizens in response to rapidly rising sea levels.
The Republic of Kiribati, a nation comprised of 32 tiny atolls as well as a raised coral island, is facing the tragic Exodus as the Pacific Ocean has already begun to encroach many of the nation's atolls. The sea level has already risen substantially over the past several years, and has reached several of the villages dotted along the string of islands.
The President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, announced yesterday that he is in emergency meetings with the neighboring nation of Fiji to purchase up to 5000 acres of land that would be designated for the population of the island to relocate.
The diaspora of the nearly 113,000 residents of Kiribati would be a logistical nightmare and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The President stated that skilled workers would be sent first to the relocation center in Fiji on the island of Vanua Levu, where they would help with the construction of homes for the rest of the population to arrive at a later date.
Tong has been very vocal about the plight of his country's inhabitants, addressing the United Nations about the possibility of his homeland being underwater during the course of the next several decades. A plan was originally drawn up to move the citizens to several man-made islands, built similar to large oil rigs, but the idea was dismissed as being too costly and risky.
The diaspora would be the largest forced migration of a large group of people due to dramatic climate change for many decades. Formerly known as the Gilbert Islands, the country won independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, visited the island of Kiribati during their tour of the South Pacific in October, 1982.