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Tuesday, March 13,2012

Climate Change Is Forcing Entire Countries to Migrate

The people of Kiribati are going to have to move. Slightly more than 100,000 people live in this country, a chain of 33 atolls in the South Pacific, about as many as live in a small American city like Erie, Pennsylvania, or Flint, Michigan. The islands lie low in the ocean, and as climate change drives the sea level higher, fewer people are going to have the option of living there. The country’s president, Anote Tong, considered surrounding the islands with sea walls or building floating platforms for his constituents to move to. But both those options are expensive, and the country’s cabinet is now backing Tong’s new plan: buy land elsewhere

Climate-forced migration isn’t supposed to be happening yet. We've always thought the consequences of abusing the earth would hit our children and our children children’s in 2050 and 2100, not in 2012. That’s the easy way to think about climate change, and many Americans do. This past fall, the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication asked survey participants, “How much do you think climate change will harm future generations of people?” Forty percent responded, “A great deal.” How much did they think climate change would have their own families? Forty-eight percent of respondents thought “only a little” or “not at all.”


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