Kiribati’s president had a dire warning for New Zealanders Tuesday, saying the island nation only had five years left before people start leaving to avoid rising sea levels.
“People are getting quite scared now and we need immediate solutions,” President Anote Tong told a conference. “This is why I want to rush the solutions so there will be a sense of comfort for our people. They can sleep even when the tide is high.”
Tong says global warming is causing sea levels to rise and make island life “unsustainable” for Kiribati’s people. Tong said his people were prepared to “migrate with dignity” and urged New Zealand to take in those fleeing rising seas.
So far, Fiji is the only government to offer Kiribati’s potential migrants a new home, but Tong wants more countries to open their doors.
For years, environmentalists and politicians have been warning that global warming will devastate island nations, like Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean. The United Nations once predicted in 2005 there would be 50 million “climate refugees” by 2010 — once that didn’t happen, the U.N. deleted the webpage making this claim.
The U.N. later claimed there would be 50 million climate refugees by 2020 due to droughts, flooding and other extreme weather events. Rising sea levels have also been pointed to as a source of mass migrations since millions of people live near the coast or in island nations.
President Barack Obama’s 2017 budget proposal asks for $400 million to relocate small Alaskan villages supposedly being threatened by global warming.
Kiribati’s plea for sanctuary in New Zealand may fall on deaf ears. Officials deported the world’s first so-called “climate change refugee” from the country in September.
Ioane Teitiota, who’s coincidentally from Kiribati, was deported after he was caught overstaying his visa in 2011. He spent the next four years trying to delay his deportation by claiming he was a refugee of global warming.
“While Kiribati undoubtedly faces challenges, Mr. Teitiota does not, if returned face ‘serious harm,’” a New Zealand court ruled last year. “There is no evidence that the government of Kiribati is failing to take steps to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation, to the extent that it can.”
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