back to article Pacific nation prepares to flee rising seas

The Pacific nation of Kiribati has initiated a long-term plan to up sticks to Fiji, as rising sea levels threaten to swallow its homeland. Kiribati comprises 32 coral atolls in four island groups spread across 1,351,000 square miles (3,499,000km2) of ocean. The total land area is 313 square miles (811km2), with the highest …


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  1. Robinson
    Thumb Down

    What's all this then?

    But sea levels aren't rising above their centuries long trend. Indeed it's possible the atolls are still growing in any case. So this is just another in a very long list of "climate change" related bollocks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      you sound like a

      Bunch of holocaust deniers,

      There's obviously no danger from sea levels rising, they're just trying to emigrate to a better place, its a big con isn't it!

      1. Glenn Amspaugh

        Re: you sound like a

        Exactly. Follow the money. I bet you'll find out it's this 'university' that started the whole thing, decades ago, to drive up enrollment. That's why you see all these climatologists and scientists running around in fancy cars and have the doors of industry and politics open to them.

    2. Lars Silver badge

      Re: What's all this then?

      I hope you are right and that the people at Kiripati can now relax and stop worrying about the future because change is bollocks and it's just a stupid nightmare anyway.

      1. Robinson

        Re: What's all this then?

        Fascinating. The Maldives had the same problem. They even had a cabinet meeting under water with snorkels. But what's this? The man who has spent more time on the Maldives measuring, cataloguing and studying sea levels there for two decades, said he saw no evidence whatsoever that sea levels were increasing. If anything, he said they'd fallen.

        By all means completely ignore empirical evidence and go with the output of some ridiculously idiotic computer model if you like. Personally, I prefer to think that what's going on in the real world is more important than what's going on inside the head of a Environmentalist.

        1. Ed Vim

          Re: What's all this then?

          It's not just the Maldives, for well over a decade now several low-lying Pacific nations have been discussing the affects of Global Warming and the rising sea levels. The governing bodies on the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Tarawa, and many others have been forced to look at migrating off their home islands because of rising ocean levels within the next few years. They are looking at their own offspring, future generations, who will no longer have a direct tie to their past because 'the civilized' part of the world's population is still in denial about global warming. Relocating a sovereign nation is not a task anyone takes lightly and it's not because of some silly, trivial reason, cutting yourself off from your heritage and homeland is a drastic step to take. Some Polynesian cultures have been around thousands of years longer than 'Western' societies -- this isn't some cyclic change in ocean levels, those are gradual occurrences (in a geographic sense). What we're looking at is a severe climate induced change. (Again, in a geographic time frame.) Satellite images show global ice caps are shrinking, weather patterns are shifting, and ocean levels are rising, yet no matter how much solid, documented proof there is, when somebody in the middle of Illinois looks out their back window and sees snow they dismiss climate change as B.S.

          1. cybervigilante

            Re: What's all this then?

            Unfortunately, Faux listeners can't conceive complex ideas such as putting more energy into a chaotic system like the weather can cause more Extremes. So global warming can actually cause more extreme cooling in different times and places. But overall the poles really are melting and it's hard to contravene that. Then, there is another paradox you couldn't explain to the Faux crowd. As the Arctic melts it dumps megatons of cold water into the North Atlantic, cooling airstreams that then drop further South, which may actually cool the Northern hemisphere for awhile. However, when we hit solar maximum in a few years, even that will suddenly reverse. But thanks to climate deniers it will then be too late to do much about the excess carbon burden. The PPM is going higher than ever in human history, and CO2 is an insulator. How anyone can ignore simple Facts like that is beyond me. However, according to a number of studies, Faux news listeners are more misinformed on fact than any other group.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What's all this then?

        I am tempted to make them an offer for their current homes.

    3. Orv Silver badge

      Re: What's all this then?

      I suggest you fly there immediately and tell them the tides that they're seeing reach their villages are actually a hoax created by the international scientific community.

      Either that, or put your money where your mouth is -- buy up the land that's about to become cheaply available, and if you're right you can turn it into a private resort and make a bundle when it *doesn't* slip below the sea. ;)

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: What's all this then?

        Orv, have you considered that it's actually the island sinking? Atolls have a tendency to do that over the long term when they're prevented from acquiring new material - as they are when inhabited by humans in anything other than a very primitive existence. Human habitation erodes existing land prevents new material from being deposited on the island, which would be a problem even if sea levels were static.

        1. John Halewood

          Re: What's all this then?

          In fact, whilst the three main islands have actually increased in size (due to human influence) over the years, another two uninhabited islands have sunk completely. The main issue is the loss of fresh water - as the sea level comes up, more of the land becomes saline (which is what is happening) and growing crops becomes impossible. Once you've run out of fresh water sources whether or not you're swimming with the fishes or just paddling becomes pretty irrelevant.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But sea levels aren't rising

      Don't be such a Cnut.

      That's Lewis Pages' job.

    5. Nigel 11

      Atolls do sink

      It was actually Charles Darwin who first worked out how coral atolls form around a volcano which starts sinking back into the earth once it becomes extinct. From its shape, you can deduce that this one is indeed in the last stages of sinking beneath the ocean. Most of what was once a circular reef has already sunk beneath the waves.

      How much of what they are seeing is sea-level rsing and how much is rock-level sinking is probably unanswerable. Regardless, the islander's plight is very real!

  2. EWI

    And on cue...

    Someone turns up to claim that sea levels aren't rising, AGW is a 'fraud' etc. El Reg's comments continue to go to hell in a handbasket.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And on cue...

      That's because sea level rise pretty much stopped dead in late 2010 and has been havering about a fairly small range since then.

      Of course taking an average of world-wide sea levels is a complete load, anyway. Sea level varies by more than a meter between different points, and is rising in some areas and falling in others all the time, changes which are masked in the "global average".

      1. scarshapedstar
        Thumb Down

        Re: And on cue...

        "Sea level varies by more than a meter between different points, and is rising in some areas and falling in others all the time, changes which are masked in the "global average"."

        Do you seriously think that no scientist ever thought to take the fucking TIDES into account?


        1. monkeyhanger

          Re: And on cue...

          I don't think he was actually talking about tides. Anyway, sea levels are sinking in the east pacific and rising in the west pacific and the rise in sea level is pretty much at one of the lowest levels it's been at since the last ice age ended. When you look at historical records sea levels have risen constantly and don't seem to be rising any faster than they ought to anyway regardless of any kind of additional climate change (either real or "virtual").

      2. Sapient Fridge

        Re: And on cue...

        Wow, cherry picking just over a year's data. At this rate you will soon be claiming that sea levels aren't rising because clearly it falls twice a day.

        Sea level is noisy because of the amount of water taken out of the sea and dumped on land as rain, especially in La Nina years. You have to look at the long term trend to see what is happening.

    2. Steve Crook

      Re: And on cue...

      Leaving aside the problems in actually accurately measuring sea level rise (and there are a lot), there's no indication of exactly when we can expect to see these islands inundated. Frankly this looks to me to be just as much a grab for attention and money as holding a cabinet meeting under water.

      Global sea levels have been rising ever since the last ice age ended and look set to continue to rise until the next ice age, so these islands would possibly have been inundated eventually anyway. How much sooner this would occur due to the effects of man? Dunno.

      What can be said is that, so far, all the IPCC estimates/projections/models for sea level rise have been shown to be high when compared with the measurements.

    3. Goat Jam

      Re: And on cue...

      The most level headed, sensible article on AGW I've yet read;

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Doesn't mention Perth

        Perth is converting to drink sea water. Good luck with that.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Doesn't mention Perth

          Well anything is better than Aussie beer

  3. Pondule

    Time gentlemen please

    They brought this on themselves by moving their timezone to UTC +14; every time anyone flies over Kiribati the islands sink a bit due to rifts in spacetime.

    1. Quxy
      Thumb Up

      Re: Time gentlemen please

      That's the most sensible comment so far!

  4. Bluenose

    Why Fiji of all places!!

    Whilst I agree Fiji is a nice place with lots of beaches and palm trees it also has serious political and racial issues between the indigenous Fijians and those of Indian descent. The Kiribatians run the risk of being 3rd class citizens never mind 2nd.

    That said one has to applaud a leader who has actually given serious thought to the changes threatening the homeland and taking sensible steps towards trying to find a way to alleviate the problems that his people face.

    And of course there is climate change, Earth has always been subject to climate change the question is whether we are in part responsible for it and it is highly likely that even if water levels are now stable the increased height of the sea and the impact that has on waves may well increase the erosion of the atolls.

    1. cybervigilante

      Re: Why Fiji of all places!!

      A leader who thinks decades ahead. When have we last seen that in the US? Teddy Roosevelt, maybe, since he established national parks. Too bad we can't import this guy and run him for President. Maybe fake his birth certificate for Real - it's time all the loons had a Real conspiracy to bloat about ;')

    2. Jason Hindle

      Re: Fiji has plenty of land

      And more importantly, plenty of fairly high land and a relatively small population spread thinly. Also, the lifestyle of Fijian villagers is probably very similar to that of most Kiribatians (i.e. subsistence farming, fishing and so on) so they can fit in there, if they make an effort (and it sounds like they plan to buy their own land, so they'll hardly be refugees in the conventional sense).

      The only potential issue I see is with Fiji's dysfunctional government. Currently, they have what amounts to a military dictatorship and rule by decree. The only good thing I can say about the current government is that it's probably the least racist government they've had in recent times.

  5. Pondule

    Can an atoll sink?

    Isn't an atoll just a ring of coral sand sat on top of an island that's already sunk below the waves? Surely if the original rock island sinks a bit more (or the ocean rises again) that coral ring will just get flooded more often making the biological sand creation run a bit faster. I don't think you can kill a coral island by drowning unless you kill the coral that made it.

    1. VV

      Re: Can an atoll sink?

      Myself I live on an island surrounded by coral. Unfortunately, due to rises in ocean temperature, the coral is dying off.

  6. Blain Hamon

    For shame, author!

    Not only are you switching between square miles and acres, instead of defaulting to metric, but you didn't even convert to proper Reg units! ( )

    For your convenience, the islands are 168 wales of ocean, but only 39 milliwales of land, all less than 4 and a third linguine above sea level. They're going to buy less than one milliwales.

    Standards people, standards!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not needed in any form or fashion

    A coral island with a healthy ecosystem will not have to worry as long as the sea rise is at or below the rate of coral growth no matter what the facts of sea level rise is. Currently there is no evidence that the sea level rise is above the rate of coral growth. The island’s will not sink under the waves. The only conclusion one can make is that this is a scam or caused by unnecessary fear mongering by activists.

  8. a cynic writes...

    Think of it as insurance...

    Best case - the sea doesn't rise, everyone breathes a sigh of relief and the extra land eases the existing overcrowding in Tarawa.

    Worst case - Kiribati sinks beneath the waves but the Kiribati people don't.

    Seems like a bloody good idea to me.

    1. cybervigilante

      Re: Think of it as insurance...

      Or, Kiribati could be the locale for a really small disaster movie that would gross 2,000 dollars worldwide.

    2. James Smith 3

      Re: Think of it as insurance...

      Best case? Well, that depends who you are. If you're someone involved in the decision to move or a scientist/enviromentalist that said that the sea was going to rise, then you might be in a bit of trouble. Everyone isn't going to be breathing a sigh of relief; they'll be round with their pitchforks demanding to know who was responsible for turning their lives upside down for no good reason.

      This is the age old "better to do something just in case" argument. What really matters is getting the correct information and making the decision correctly. This is an excellent example of why good science is vital and how alarmism could cause unnecessary pain and suffering.

      I'm not saying that the Kiribati people shouldn't relocate in the face of a grave climate threat, but there better actually be a grave climate threat or there will be hell to pay.

      1. Bumpy Cat

        Re: Think of it as insurance...

        I have home insurance. When a year goes by without my house being burgled, flooded or burnt down, I don't reach for my pitchfork demanding answers.

        Establishing links with neighbouring countries, building a self-sustaining presence, and educating your population seem to be worthy things to do, even if you don't have to evacuate your country.

        1. James Smith 3

          Re: Think of it as insurance...

          You don't mind because the amount you pay for your insurance is relatively small. If you had to pay a life changing amount for your home insurance because the insurance company says your house is very likely to get flooded in the near future, you'd be quite annoyed if they turned round ten years later and said "whoops, sorry we got it wrong". You'd be asking for your money back. (with a pitchfork.)

          Your second point is an interesting one. I was thinking long the same lines.

  9. bep

    Wet feet

    They're getting wet feet with every high tide and the gardens where they grow their food are getting flooded. If your theory doesn't explain this, it's not much use the people of Kiribati. If the islands really are sinkiing because of population pressure and not climate change it makes no difference, they still have to make alternate arrangements.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Haven't heard of them in over 40 years

    If you like a good read, I can recommend Arthur Grimble's "A Pattern Of Islands" which was just republished last year.

    It will be a shame if that's all that's left to remember them by though.

    1. Qu Dawei
      Thumb Up

      Re: Haven't heard of them in over 40 years

      The sequel "Return to the Islands" is also quite good. I first read both of them in the early 60s after being intrigued by a section we read during English lessons at school. I was so intrigued, in fact, that I pestered my parents to seek out and buy both books to read in full, and I've re-read them with great pleasure quite a number of times since.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Haven't heard of them in over 40 years

      >It will be a shame if that's all that's left to remember them by though.

      Jeez the lack of education is staggering. Engage History mode and google 'Tarawa' 1943. I doubt the US Marines will ever forget that one nor the families of the people killed there, Japanese and American.

      I especially recall reading a war correspondent said after the battle you coul dwalk for hundreds of yards in any direction stepping on nothing but bloated and blackened corpses. Not something you'd forget.

      Note to PM ...BUILD A FERKIN WALL - start now.

      h/t Rich Hall.

  11. cybervigilante

    Geez, one good tsunami and they're out of luck, sea level rise or not.

    And I sure am tired of Faux news political BS used to contravene hundreds of valid climate science studies. We all know the motive behind that. Sure, the poles aren't melting - it's all an illusion designed to enrage that fat windbag, Rush.

  12. James Micallef Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Well done to the Kiribatians

    Irrespective of whether sea levels are rising or not, and irrespective of whether humans are to blame, the Kiribatians are taking a proactive and sensible approach. It surely is a lot cheaper and more practical to gradually migrate a population in an organised and systematic way in response to perceived change rather than to spend gazillions to stop or reverse such a perceived change that quite possibly could happen anyway even if gazillions really are spent on preventing / reversing it.

    1. James Smith 3

      Re: Well done to the Kiribatians

      Huh? Surely "whether sea levels are rising or not" has a great deal of bearing on whether relocating the entire Kiribatian population is a "sensible approach"?

  13. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    Call the estate agent

    So why didn't they sell their island first before they bought a plot in Fiji? I mean, surely if someone was willing to buy the Eiffel Tower back then, you should be able to find somebody with loadsa cash willing to buy some "prime" seaside property? "Perfect weekend hideaway", "Wake up with the sea in your ears every morning", etc., etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Call the estate agent

      Yep if it's really such a problem sell them now and move right away.

  14. John A Blackley


    At a mean two feet above sea level this isn't a nation, it's a sandbank - and sandbanks rise and fall regularly as any sailing fule no.

  15. Chuckl

    Challenges in Tribology

    Since the tides there are 2m, the weather station is at an altitude of 4m, and the highest point is listed as 81m, I'd say the whole article is suspect. Nay rubbish even.

  16. Bernard Mergendeiler

    Pause to remember Tarawa

    The mention of Tarawa should cause one to pause for a moment to remember the Battle of Tarawa, one of the bloodiest of WWII.

  17. Keep Refrigerated

    Everything is temporary

    No-one's asked the question of how the Kiribatian people got there in the first place... presumably their ancestors sailed there by boat (to flee or to attack) some time before the 17th century and before the establishment of colonies, territories and countries.

    The real tragedy is that they decided to settle and become a 'country' rather than remaining indigenous and relocate to some more stable land without having to pay for it. In the West we tend to forget that for the most part of earth's history there did not exist 'countries' and 'nations'; people were free to roam where they pleased (discounting the occasional tribal war over some favorable land).

    5 years ago I visited Maui and the Haleakalā summit visitor center where one of the researches was explaining how the islands were formed over millions of years due to changes in the pacific plate and volcano formation.

    She explained that eventually the current islands will sink under the sea but other volcanoes will form to create new islands - the next one is thought to be Lö'ihi and scheduled to arrive sometime in the next 100 millennia.

    So humans were once nomadic and apparently, islands are not permanent fixtures either - who knew?

  18. General Pance

    Outrageous. Can we pin this on the Jews?

  19. Alan Brown Silver badge

    "Pacific Island culture"

    Has always been mobile - much more mobile than it is today (European influence discouraged the existing trade and migration routes)

    The Pacific is studded with islands which were once inhabited, but aren't any more - european explorers found dozens of them in the 18th century.

    In most cases it was lack of fresh water which did the business, but living in low lying atolls is a risky proposition - in the 1990s virtually the entire population of one of the islands (a few hundred people) in the northern Cook Islands was washed out to sea one night by a 9 metre storm surge from a tropical cyclone several hundred miles away - survivors said the night was dead calm and then the wave just quietly inundated everything.

    This kind of thing is a far greater risk to the Kiribati and the Maldives populations than sea level rise and sinking atolls. The fact that the countries themselves may cease to exist is more due to the artifice of being a "nation" than anything else. In times gone by tribes used to simply up sticks and move to a more suitable island as needed.

    1. howard bowen
      Thumb Up

      Re: "Pacific Island culture"

      This is the most sensible informative post I've read in El Reg for some time.

      Nice one Alan.

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