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  • Writer's pictureMichael Roman


Updated: May 28, 2020

The IPCC estimated that the Pacific Islands as a whole have contributed just .0012 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions leading them to be among the most minor contributors to global warming, but they remain at the greatest risk from its impacts (Sighn, 2007).

As early as 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) argued the greatest single impact of climate change would be human migration. Populations most prone to migration would be those living on or near coastal areas. Given this argument, coral atoll nations could become at-risk populations, four of these nations, including Kiribati, are in the central Pacific and have adapted through internal migration and infrastructure development. Adaptation strategies, largely seen as short-term strategies, will run their course, leaving transnational migration as the final adaptation strategy. At a 2007 international conference on climate change Tukabu Teroroko, Kiribati’s then Environmental Minister stated that his fellow citizens, “did not want to lose their country. At the same time, they did not wish to become second-class citizens in other nations.”

We have so many unique things the way we dress, the way we eat, the way we speak; I don't believe we will disappear soon, but as more people move away we will lose our identity, and then we will be nothing, never to be known again in the history of the world.

The physical implications of climate change impacts diminish livelihoods. Saltwater inundation, unpredictable storm patterns, and prolonged droughts disrupt agriculture and societal activities. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a 1990 UN coalition of small island and low-lying coastal countries, advocates for their survival by the implementation of mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In 2009, at the COP 15 meeting, the coalition brought an urgent message, limit global warming to 1.5 degrees for our survival. However, with no significant financial backing or military power, all the coalition could hope for were sympathetic ears. After the conference, headlines read - 1.5°C Rejected, and Crushed in Copenhagen, leaving coalition member states feeling as if their lives did not matter.

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