Climate change places a substantial burden on the people and economy of Kiribati. Losses could be catastrophic for a country with a GDP of only $US580.8 million (2008 est.).
Communities would likely adapt to sea level rise by elevating their houses or moving further inland, particularly if the changes were gradual. Nevertheless, sea level rise could profoundly affect the economy of Kiribati by inundating the causeways that now link the islets of Tarawa, thus disrupting socio-economic links. Much of the impact of climate change will ultimately depend on the extent to which proactive adaptation measures are adopted.
An effort is underway to determine the level of risk from inundation and saltwater intrusion, and the results of this will give a better idea of the level of costs that will arise from the adverse effects of climate change. But, a very rough estimate recently made on the cost for the total protection of all inhabited islands in Kiribati came to around $US2 billion based on present day values. This is for protection only.