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.
Kiribati’s leaders had also considered building a man-made island with a $2 billion estimated price tag or outfitting their island with sea walls, according to the U.K.’s The Independent. Migrating to the Fijian island was said to be a “last resort” move by President Tong.
Fearing that climate change could wipe out their entire Pacific archipelago, the leaders of Kiribati are considering an unusual backup plan: moving the populace to Fiji.
Kiribati President Anote Tong told The Associated Press on Friday that his Cabinet this week endorsed a plan to buy nearly 6,000 acres on Fiji's main island, Viti Levu. He said the fertile land, being sold by a church group for about $9.6 million, could be insurance for Kiribati's entire population of 103,000, though he hopes it will never be necessary for everyone to leave.
Then there are cultural factors. Some Pacific countries, like Kiribati, are populated by what ethnologists call nonconsumers: people who need just a little cash to get by and once that need is met, prefer to spend time with their family, go fishing or sleep.
There is also "pubusi," the local tradition in which one person can ask another for pretty much anything, using the magic word, and the other person has to hand it over or face public disgrace.
The idea that governments should put something aside for a rainy day has a long and respectable history. Kiribati, a Pacific island country that mined guano for fertiliser, set up the Kiribati Revenue Equalisation Reserve Fund in 1956. Today the guano is long gone, but the pile of money remains. If it manages a yield of 10% a year, the $400m fund stands to boost the islands' GDP by a sixth.
President Anote Tong of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati (capitol Tarawa, population just over 100,000) has established one of the largest marine wilderness parks--and UN World Heritage Sites--in his nation's Phoenix Islands, one of the last pristine places on our blue marble home full of sharks, corals and turtles. He did this two years ago despite the fact that sea-level rise driven by fossil fuel fired climate change threatens to overwhelm his nation by mid-century, forcing its population to evacuate its home islands.
Kiribati used to lie either side of the International Date Line, but the government unilaterally moved the line eastwards in 1995 to ensure the day was the same in the whole country.
This was a shrewd move as Kiribati marketed itself as the first inhabited place on Earth to greet the new millennium on 1 January 2000. The world's media descended on Caroline Island, renamed Millennium Island, to record the event.
The name Kiribati is the local pronunciation of "Gilberts", derived from the main island chain, the Gilbert Islands. Kiribati became independent from the United Kingdom in 1979. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the IMF and the World Bank, and became a full member of the United Nations in 1999.
The micro-state consists of 65,000 people living on 33 coral island specks strewn across an ocean area as wide as the continental United States.
In 1979, when it gained independence from Britain, Kiribati lost its largest revenue source, when mining of phosphate ore from Banaba Island ceased because of a dispute with landowners. Government income was halved, and export earnings fell 80 percent. The nation was left with coconuts and fish as exports.
U.S. authorities were so anxious to resettle Guantanamo prisoners abroad that they were ready to strike any deal with a foreign country willing to take them. Officials offered Kiribati, a tiny island nation in the Pacific—population 98,000—millions of dollars in incentives to shelter Chinese Muslim detainees.