In DepthClimate Change

Warming may not swamp islands

Science  01 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6196, pp. 496-497
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6196.496

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Summary

In an interview with CNN last month, Anote Tong, the president of Kiribati, insisted that rising sea levels due to global warming will mean "total annihilation" for this nation of 33 coral islands in the Central Pacific and for other atoll island nations like Tuvalu and the Maldives. In May, Kiribati bought 22 square kilometers of land in Fiji as a haven for displaced citizens, cementing Kiribati's reputation as an early victim of climate change. No doubt, the sea is coming: Global sea levels are expected to rise up to 1 meter by 2100. But recent geologic studies suggest that the coral reefs supporting sandy atoll islands will grow and rise in tandem with the sea. The only Pacific atoll islanders who will have to move must do so for the same reason as millions of people on the continents: because they live too close to shore.

  • * Christopher Pala is a writer in Washington, D.C.