The leaders of Kiribati have come up with an unusual plan to deal with fears that rising sea levels due to climate change could wipe out their entire Pacific archipelago: move the populace to Fiji.
Kiribati President Anote Tong told the Associated Press that his Cabinet endorsed a plan this week to buy almost 6,000 acres on Fiji’s main island for about $9.6 million. The acres could fit Kiribati’s entire population of 103,000, but Tong said he hoped the move would not be necessary.
The effects of climate change have been felt by residents of Kiribati as well as its Pacific neighbors Tuvalu, Tokelau and Samoa. In October, the islands experienced a water shortage so severe that most residents feared that they would soon run out of drinking water. The problem was blamed on rising seas that mixed salt and freshwater. Many of Kiribati’s atolls rise just a few feet about sea level, which itself is rising every year: Some scientists estimate that the sea is now rising at about 0.1 inches per year, but will rise faster in coming years, according to the AP.
In 2010, in a special report on Kiribati, dubbed the “sinking nation,” many residents said they were torn between blaming rising sea levels on what they heard from scientists and what they read in the Bible. Watch a report from NPR’s Brian Reed, below:
The AP reports that how Fijians feel about possibly becoming hosts for thousands of their neighbors remains unknown. But the residents of Kiribati may have some reason to cheer. According to the CIA Factbook, Fiji has a higher life expectancy rate, lower adult prevalence of obesity and far higher GDP than Kiribati.
Fiji is 1,400 miles south of Kiribati and home to about 850,000 people.