Climate Change Refugees: A Catastrophe of Our Own Creation

Anote Tong, former President of the Republic of Kiribati, explores the growing crisis of climate refugees as cataclysmic weather events render communities uninhabitable.

Climate change poses the most significant moral challenge to the global community and an existential threat to the future of many communities worldwide. With the projected rise in sea levels by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of up to one metre within the century, the most vulnerable coastal communities and low-lying island states — several of which are in Pacific — face the real possibility of their islands and communities being submerged well within the next hundred years.

Recent events and the experience of the most vulnerable island communities clearly indicate that climate change is already seriously affecting the low-lying island communities in the Pacific. Cyclone Pam, which hit and seriously damaged the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu in March of 2014, also veered north on a path never previously witnessed to hit the islands of Tuvalu and the southern island of the Gilbert Island Group of Kiribati. Kiribati is on the Equator and was previously not prone to cyclone events, being in a region regarded as free from cyclones.

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