Pacific nation may buy Fiji land as climate refuge

Mar 09, 2012 By NICK PERRY , Associated Press
In this March 30, 2004 file photo, a man fishes on a bridge on Tarawa atoll, Kiribati. 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, March 9, 2012 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 provide an insurance policy for Kiribati's entire population of 103,000, though he hopes it will never be necessary for everyone to leave. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

(AP) -- 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.

"We would hope not to put everyone on one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it," Tong said. "It wouldn't be for me, personally, but would apply more to a younger generation. For them, moving won't be a matter of choice. It's basically going to be a matter of survival."

Kiribati, which straddles the equator near the international date line, has found itself at the leading edge of the debate on climate change because many of its atolls rise just a few feet above sea level.

Tong said some villages have already moved and there have been increasing instances of sea water contaminating the island's underground fresh water, which remains vital for trees and crops. He said changing rainfall, tidal and storm patterns pose as least as much threat as ocean levels, which so far have risen only slightly.

Some scientists have estimated the current level of sea rise in the Pacific at about 2 millimeters (0.1 inches) per year. Many scientists expect that rate to accelerate due to climate change.

Fiji, home to about 850,000 people, is about 1,400 miles south of Kiribati. But just what people there think about potentially providing a home for thousands of their neighbors remains unclear. Tong said he's awaiting full parliamentary approval for the land purchase, which he expects in April, before discussing the plan formally with Fijian officials.

Sharon Smith-Johns, a spokeswoman for the Fijian government, said several agencies are studying Kiribati's plans and the government will release a formal statement next week.

Kiribati, which was known as the Gilbert Islands when it was a British colony, has been an independent nation since 1979.

Tong has been considering other unusual options to combat climate change, including shoring up some Kiribati islands with sea walls and even building a floating island. He said this week that the latter option would likely prove too expensive, but that he hopes reinforcing some islands will ensure that Kiribati continues to exist in some form even in a worst-case scenario.

"We're trying to secure the future of our people," he said. "The international community needs to be addressing this problem more."

Tong said he hopes that the Fiji land will represent just one of several options for relocating people. He pointed out that the land is three times larger than the atoll of Tarawa, currently home to more than half of Kiribati's population.

Although like much of the Pacific, Kiribati is poor - its annual GDP per person is just $1,600 - Tong said the country has plenty of foreign reserves to draw from for the land purchase. The money, he said, comes from phosphate mining on the archipelago in the 1970s.

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User comments : 8

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rwinners
4 / 5 (4) Mar 09, 2012
Wow, how interesting! Can you imagine such responsible government? One that would save income from 40 years previous so as to have enough money to replace their entire homeland?

What planet are these people from, anyway???
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (6) Mar 09, 2012
They certainly aren't from the Borrow and Spend plant of Conservadopia or it's forest moon Libertaria.
ryggesogn2
1.5 / 5 (8) Mar 10, 2012
What an opportunity for seasteading!
Kiribti could embrace this opportuity or...abandon their homes and let others seastead.
http://www.seaste...ro=close
kaasinees
2.7 / 5 (7) Mar 10, 2012
Thats about 93 dollars per person. That is not a bad purchase at all.
Xbw
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 12, 2012
They certainly aren't from the Borrow and Spend plant of Conservadopia or it's forest moon Libertaria.

I'm confused. Are you saying conservatives and libertarians are guilty of borrow and spend policies? I'd say our entire government is guilty of that...on both sides of the aisle.
RitchieGuy
1 / 5 (4) Mar 13, 2012
Yes, fiscal responsibility is unknown to Democrats and some Republicans. Bush '43 was spend-happy, so Obama feels he also has a right to try and top that because the American people haven't been punished enough already. Maybe Obama will invite the people of Kiribati to come to the U.S. and get on the welfare roles, since he has no objection whatsoever as to illegal Mexican immigration, their anchor babies and their receiving welfare checks. Surely, America can accommodate some more indigenous people. They might even be treated far better than the native Indian tribes of north America were treated in the past 350 years.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 13, 2012
Speaking of fiscal responsibility you really need to address this richie

As I've said before, I will be planting sweet sorghum soon, and the resulting sugars will be fermented into ethanol...to store the ethanol locally blah
Funny. U of Arizona is only just now working on a pilot plant project for sweet sorghum. They've grown 40 acres (coincidence?) but couldn't manage the logistics for even this test project because the intermediate support is not yet available.
http://obpreview2...t%20.pdf

-So without further research (I don't feel like wasting an additional 5 minutes) I feel confident in reiterating the conclusion that I share with most everyone who reads your posts, that you are a liar. Unless you can disprove it? Come on, prove you're not the lying imbecile you apparently are. IMO. LOL.
Xbw
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 13, 2012
I saw a documentary once called "God Grew Tired of Us". The US government paid for a group of orphans from Sudan to immigrate to the USA. They gave them 1 month of free rent and helped them find jobs but stressed that after 1 month, they would stop assisting the immigrants. Every one of those men found jobs and many of them made their way to college eventually.

Hurray for motivation.

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