International Business Times: Kiribati Climate Change Relocation Refugee Crisis?

Posted on Nov 5, 2015 in Featured, slider

Kiribati Climate Change Relocation Refugee Crisis? Sinking Low-Lying Island Nations In Pacific, Indian Oceans Seeking Solutions Before It’s Too Late


October 11 2015 8:10 AM EDT

Even though battling climate change was added as one of the new sustainable-development goals during the recent session of the United Nations General Assembly, the organization’s definition of a refugee has remained focused on people escaping persecution, excluding climate change as a factor. But sea levels have continued to rise around the globe — a phenomenon scientists have attributed in part to climate change — and representatives of several low-lying island countries in the Pacific and Indian oceans, including Kiribati, have been meeting this weekend to discuss options for relocating their populations and finding the financial resources to do it.

While conflict and wars in the Middle East and North Africa have largely driven the current refugee crisis in Europe, experts have indicated a burgeoning global migration movement could be in play with coastal cities and countries especially susceptible to the effects of climate change.

“It’s only set to get worse,” said Maxine Burkett, an associate professor of law who focuses on climate change at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law. She said the compounded effect of all factors were important. “In the next generation or two, it’s possible the majority of the island [of Kiribati] will have to be evacuated.”

click for full article

Caption: The central pacific island of Tarawa in Kiribati. Mid Caption: The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has deployed a small Joint Task Force to the small Pacific Island nation of Kiribati to commence Operation Kiribati Assist. Operation Kiribati Assist is the ADF contribution to Australia’s response to a request from the Government of Kiribati to assist in the disposal of World War II unexploded ordnance (UXO) from locations throughout Kiribati. The ADF has world-class skills, expertise and capability in conducting explosive ordnance disposal and is happy to be assisting our regional neighbour in clearing the threat posed by unexploded ordnance. Joint Task Force (JTF) 637 will dispose of UXO identified during a 2007 reconnaissance of the islands and scope any future UXO disposal requirements and EOD training opportunities for the Kiribati Police Service during the deployment. The JTF comprises approximately 22 people and includes a Command Group, a Royal Australian Navy Clearance Diving Team to handle underwater UXO, Army and RAAF EOD teams who will handle land based UXO, including air delivered items and a Medical Team. The 33 islands of Kiribati are scattered across 3.5 million square kilometres of the Central Pacific and is the site where the Battle of Tarawa was fought in November 20th, 1943. Most UXO encountered in Kiribati are remnants from this conflict and include military ordnance such as artillery projectiles, aerial bombs, rockets, mortars and mines.

The central pacific island of Tarawa in Kiribati.  Credit: Kiribati Government