On Tuesday, President Obama proposed new limits on carbon dioxide emitted from existing power plants, and other efforts to reduce gases linked to climate change from entering the air. For sinking island nations like Kiribati, however, that plan is likely too little, too late.
Kiribati, located in the South Pacific, stands, on average, just six feet above sea level. In 60 years Kiribati’s President Anote Tong predicts that his island will be inhabitable due to climate change.
The island nation is at risk of disappearing because of sea level rise caused by melting sea ice and and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. These changes in climate are blamed on carbon emissions from power plants, cars, and other human activities.
Like many islands, Kiribati is in the unfortunate position of being the most likely to suffer from the effects of climate change even though they have done little to cause it — Kirbati’s emissions per capita are only 7% of the global average and less than 2% of U.S. per capita emissions.
Kiribati has a hot, humid tropical climate, but average annual temperatures have steadily increased since 1950.
Residents have built walls to protect their villages from rising waters, but it is not a permanent solution.
Because Kirbati stands only a few feet above sea level, its islands are extremely vulnerable to rising waters.
Sea level rise affect all aspects of life on Kiribati, including agriculture, health, and water quality.
As sea levels have risen, wells have become inundated with salt water, threatening the supply of fresh water.
Coastal erosion has displaced citizens, especially on Kiribati's main island of Tarawa, which suffers from severe overcrowding.
Increases in temperatures and rainfall also pose public health problems, raising the risk of diarrhoeal disease and dengue fever.
But that only being considered as a last resort and for now they are focusing on adaptation techniques like improving water supply management and man-made walls to protect the coast.
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