Nov 20, 2017

As climate change threatens islands, Kiribati's president plans development

Kiribati
by
CBS News
Photo: kiribatitourism.gov.ki
Photo: kiribatitourism.gov.ki

The low-lying Pacific island nation of Kiribati is one of the parts of the world most threatened by climate change and rising sea levels. Scientists say the islands could be uninhabitable within decades, and in recent years, some leaders there have begun planning for a worst-case scenario that could involve relocating the population to other countries.

However, in a video presentation to the international climate conference in Bonn, Germany, last week, the president of Kiribati appeared to be turning away from such a plan.

"Climate change is indeed a serious problem," President H.E Taneti Maamau said in the video."But we don't believe that Kiribati will sink like the Titanic ship. Our country, our beautiful lands, are created by the hands of God."

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Kiribati (pronounced "kir-ah-bahss" by locals), is made up of a string of 33 small islands located halfway between Hawaii and Australia. It is home to 100,000 people and has has an average elevation of just 6 feet above sea level. Extremely high tides, known as "King Tides," have inundated homes, contaminated drinking water and killed off crops. 

Government officials say they are working on a plan to raise the level of a large area of currently uninhabitable land to make it habitable.