April has arrived; the month of Earth and Arbor Day, and the ideal time to refocus and buckle down hard on fighting climate change. As international forums gather, politicians discuss and parliaments and congresses flounder, global warming is becoming ever more real for people across the globe. No longer a “benign” concern about rising sea levels and shore houses, entire nations are preparing to relocate their peoples as ocean waters and temperatures rise.
In Kiribati The 100,000 people who live on the Pacific island of Kiribati struggle daily with climate change. Whereas we might complain of a “mild winter” or rejoice over an early spring – “Thanks, climate change!” – the people in Kiribati are strategically planning the relocation of their entire nation. The President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, just announced his Cabinet endorsed a plan to buy nearly 6,000 acres in Fiji for roughly $9.6 million. Kiribati is literally submerging, day by day, into the Pacific Ocean. Access to drinking water has been compromised by the rising sea levels, as well as gardens and farms. It won’t be long before the legends of Atlantis will indeed be real – renamed Kiribati. Read some first hand Kiribati accounts here.
In the Torres Strait Islands Ever heard of the king tides? There are exactly what they sound like – strong, completely in control and hold other people at their mercy. The king tides inundate the six Torres Strait Islands several times a year, and although the people have asked for stronger, higher seawalls, they are still at the mercy of the ocean as their beachfront and villages are slowly eroded. University of New South Wales scientist Donna Green says that the worst high king tides, which may happen every 90-100 years now, can be expected to occur every few days, 40-50 years from now. While the islanders wait for the islands to slowly become submerged, they are dealing with an increased mosquito population, growing at an exponential rate from the brackish, swampy environment and contributing to frequent malaria outbreaks.
In Nicaragua The Nicaraguans realize that national security is not only a matter of armies and weapons. For this Central American country of forests and mountains, climate change poses a huge national security risk. That’s why the government has created the Ecological Battalion – a team of 580 soldiers dedicated to combating environmental threats. The forests in Nicaragua have been disappearing by almost 25 percent in the last 60 years - mainly due to illegal lumbering – and the country has seen a rise in temperature and reduced rainfall. As Nicaragua is looking more to hydroelectricity to power their nation, this is indeed an issue of security. It’s not in many places where you find soldiers with a gun in one hand and a tree seedling in another, but perhaps this will soon be the norm.
In Borno (Chad) In Borno, desert encroachment is rarely spoken of, and then only in the context of Western China. Desertification is a major problem for those living in Borno state and off shores of the Lake Chad Basin in Chad, and indeed all of the countries at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, from Senegal to Ethiopia. Kashim Shettima, the state governor of Borno, hopes to combat this with an aggressive tree-planting campaign – 20 million gum Arabic trees in the next cropping season, with future plans to include the Jatopher tree. Additionally, plans to combat poverty in Chad are also seem as a pivotal part of their climate change fight; citizens who no longer need to worry about poverty are able to be “climate change enlightened.” Read an interview with Kashim Shettima here.
In the USA A new study from Climate Central (non-profit) and the University of Arizona calculated that 2 million American homes – for a total of 3.7 million Americans – live less than one meter above the high tide line. That means almost 4 million Americans, concentrated mostly in Florida, Louisiana, coastal California, New York and New Jersey, will likely be affected by the rising tides in the next century. The next century as in throughout the next decades – this is something worth remembering. New Years Day in 2100 is not going to be a magic day where suddenly everyone’s homes are under water; this is a long, thorough process that will see Americans spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on care and repair while the rising ocean levels wreak havoc on their homes. Read more here on what small towns are doing to plan ahead.