Can the Pacific islands stave off a disaster in slow motion?

For thousands of years, the people of Kiribati and other low-lying Pacific islands have never lived more than 3 meters (nearly 10 feet) above the ocean. Now, the ocean is rising to meet them.

coral atoll, Pacific Ocean

Although residents in low-lying Pacific islands have contributed little to global climate change, they are among the first and worst hit by its impacts, such as sea-level rise. A new initiative called  “Pacific Rising” would fuel investment, capacity-building and cultural preservation for these countries. (© David Doubilet)

Even if a strong climate agreement is sealed in Paris, the tens of thousands of tiny atolls strewn across the Pacific still face destruction at the hands of sea-level rise caused by global warming.

“Imagine living in a place where you know it’s going to go away someday, but you don’t know what day that wave’s going to come over and wash your home away,” said oceans expert Greg Stone, an executive vice president at Conservation International.

Now, in what is being called a “Marshall Plan” for the Pacific, a group of low-lying island nations is seeking to secure their very existence. The initiative, called “Pacific Rising,” would fuel investment, capacity-building and cultural preservation for these countries.

Will the plan succeed? Its backers say they don’t know what success looks like. What they do know is that action must start now.

Click here to read more about Pacific Rising in this special feature from Conservation International (story opens in a new window).

Bruno Vander Velde is CI’s editorial director. 

Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *