The Kiribati syndrome
An imperiled island nation could transform the global-warming debate
Kiribati (pronounced “keer-ah-bass’’) is a small Pacific island nation, one made up of more than 30 coral atolls that rise, at least for now, barely 6 feet above water. It lies about halfway between Australia and Hawaii. It’s in danger: At the rate the oceans are rising, its water supplies are now contaminated by invading sea water, the lack of fresh water threatens its ability to grow crops , and several parts of the country’s most populated island are already submerged. By 2025, the entire nation will be uninhabitable. Kiribati’s entire population of 96,000 is at risk of displacement. But President Anote Tong’s desperate plea, at the last UN climate conference in 2009, to devise a worldwide pact to limit carbon emissions went largely unheeded. Aware that there isn’t much more his country can do, Tong has a new approach to save his people: merit-based relocation.