Joining the likes of fellow island nation The Maldives, which has already expressed significant concerns over the long-term prospects of their own islands, Kiribati is concerned that its very survival is threatened by global warming, or global climate change as it is more properly called.
On Friday, Kiribati's President, Anote Tong, told the Associated Press that earlier this week his Cabinet endorsed a plan to buy nearly 6,000 acres on Fiji's main island, Viti Levu. The land is being sold by a church group for about $9.6 million, and could be used in the event that Kiribati's shores are swamped by rising seas from global warming.
Kiribati has 103,000 people.
Tong said, "We would hope not to put everyone on one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it. It wouldn't be for me, personally, but would apply more to a younger generation. For them, moving won't be a matter of choice. It's basically going to be a matter of survival."
Much as with The Maldives, Kiribati has found itself at the forefront of the debate on global climate change as many of the nation's atolls rise just a few feet above sea level. Kiribati is composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, covering a total of 1,351,000 square miles, both straddling the equator and bordering the International Date Line at its easternmost point.
Some scientists have estimated the current rate of sea rise in the Pacific to be approximately 2 millimeters or 0.1 inches per year, which sounds like very little, but isn't for an island nation that rises just a few feet above sea level. Additionally, many scientists expect the rate of sea level rise annual to accelerate along with climate change.
Tong has not discussed the plan with Fijian officials yet; he said he is awaiting full parliamentary approval for the land purchase before doing so. He expects that in April.
Kiribati was known as the Gilbert Islands when it was a British colony. It has been an independent nation since 1979. One of its atolls, Tarawa, was heavily involved in a battle during World War II in 1943.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons