"The longer-view is much more harrowing: not just more months like July, but an unfolding century when a month like this July has become a happy memory of a placid climate. That it is almost hard to believe only makes it a more important story to tell." https://t.co/8TSiDeGvzD
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) July 26, 2018
From Joshua Keating, at the Washington Post: “This is what happens when climate change forces an entire country to seek higher ground”
… Small island states like Kiribati and the Maldives have become symbols of the potential impacts of global warming. At the 2015 Paris climate summit, they pressured larger countries to accept the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, rather than two degrees, over preindustrial levels. (It was mostly a symbolic victory: Barring unforeseen circumstances, particularly since the Trump administration pulled the United States out of the accord, both targets will be exceeded.) They are also working to develop first-line defenses against the effects of sea-level rise, including planting mangroves to prevent coastal erosion and improving rainwater-collection systems to protect water quality.
But if none of that works, they may have to consider more drastic options. And so, in 2014, Kiribati purchased about eight square miles on the Fijian island of Vanua Levu for a little less than $9 million, potentially for the purpose of moving its population there one day. “We would hope not to put everyone on one piece of land,” the country’s then-president, Anote Tong, said. “But if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it.” Fiji would become the new home of the nation’s inhabitants, known as the I-Kiribati.
The relocation of people due to climate change isn’t unprecedented. Papua New Guinea has already begun moving the population of the Carteret Islands, a group of low-lying atolls, to the mainland. But this would be the first time an entire country had to relocate because the land on which it was built no longer existed. This raises a new and frightening question: If a country no longer exists in physical form, can it still exist as a political entity? Can a nation just up and move?
I knew Tong by reputation from the impassioned speeches he delivered at U.N. General Assemblies and climate change conferences during his time as president, from 2003 to 2016. So when I visited Kiribati in 2016 to research a book about border changes and the future of the world map, I called him. When we met one afternoon in Tarawa, he had just come in from fishing and was relaxing in shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt in the maneaba, or meeting house, outside his family’s home in a crowded residential neighborhood. John Denver played softly from a Bluetooth speaker. But the former president was troubled. “One of the most difficult things I’ve had to expect is planning for the demise of my country,” Tong told me.
He wants the I-Kiribati to stay if it’s even remotely possible. But, he rued, relocation is probably unavoidable. “The science is pretty clear: zero emissions, we’ll still go underwater. Unless some drastic work is undertaken, there will be no option. That’s the reality. It’s not a hope. It’s not a desire. It’s the brutal reality.”
Yet no one’s quite sure what that reality will look like. When I visited Secretary of Foreign Affairs Akka Rimon, she cracked the joke I’d been afraid to make: “Climate change really put us back on the world map. The irony is that we’re being erased from the world map.” Rimon had tried to think through what relocation could entail, though she didn’t really know how Kiribati’s nationhood could be preserved. “We don’t have the answer. There doesn’t seem to be any entity that looks after that. Sovereignty exists within the borders of your nation, but what happens when that changes? Nobody has the answer,” she said…
… Countries like the Maldives and Kiribati are probably disappearing — and not that long from now. I came to Kiribati expecting to find a place planning for its own destruction, but instead I found something more dispiriting: a place that, with a few exceptions, wasn’t even contemplating that destruction. “Who wants to believe that their home won’t be here?” said Tong. It was an understandable sentiment. “People here don’t even like to plan for next week. But we’ve got to be hardheaded about it.”…
Three things surprised me reporting this story:
1) I didn't realize just how much of the US economy depends on outdoor labor
2) Heat hurts productivity well before it reaches dangerous levels
3) There's no national workplace heat protection standardhttps://t.co/b2dKSrIJnF
— Umair Irfan (@umairfan) July 27, 2018