In Kiribati, the entire nation faces real danger—our own survival is at stake as a people, as a unique and vibrant culture and as a sovereign nation.
According to a report published by the World Bank in 2000, "the Pacific Islands are becoming increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather events as growing urbanization and squatter settlements, degradation of coastal ecosystems, and rapidly developing infrastructure on coastal areas intensify the islands’ natural exposure to climate events. Among the most substantial impacts of climate change would be losses of coastal infrastructure and land resulting from inundation, storm surge, and shoreline erosion. Climate change could also cause more intense cyclones and droughts, the failure of subsistence crops and coastal fisheries, losses in coral reefs, and the spread of malaria and dengue fever."
There is a tendency in much of the world to view climate change as a slow and gradual process where the harmful effects will be able to prevented before they occur. What is happening in Kiribati is evidence to the contrary. Kiribati is "like the canary in the coal mine in terms of the dramatic impact of climate change on a whole civilization of people,” says Harvard University biological oceanographer James J. McCarthy. “They didn't cause the problem, but they are among the first to feel it."