Kiribati is a small island nation in the Pacific Ocean, home to only 116,000 individuals. Its significance may seem small to us here in the North East, but it should be in the back of all our minds if we ever need motivation to tackle the climate crisis.
1.8 metres is not a surprising height of a fully grown adult here in the North East. For Kiribati, 1.8 metres is the average height above sea level. All it takes is a 1 metre rise in sea level and 2/3 of the nation will fall victim to the ocean, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
We must all be talking about how Kiribati could very much be no more in our lifetimes because there is no natural phenomenon to blame for it. It is our carbon polluting lifestyles here at home which are causing the polar ice caps to melt, leading to the displacement of ocean water which is threating the very existence of Kiribati.
The IPCC predicts a 0.9 metre global sea level rise in the next eight decades. It may seem beyond our time, but now is the time to act as more and more nations begin to industrialise, only adding to the enhanced greenhouse effect triggered by the western world.
If we don’t bring forward the date of achieving net carbon zero, if we don’t invest in more innovative renewable energy, if we don’t stop relying on finite resources for fuel then the blood will be on our hands when over 100,000 people lose their homes and livelihoods in the Pacific Ocean.
Here in the North East, we also need to begin to prepare ourselves for environmental refugees. When we get the call to arms, we can stand proudly on the global stage and say to those who have fallen victim to our lifestyles, “you are welcome here”. In the years to come, so many homes are going to be washed away and we must not be complacent when it comes to finding them a new place to rebuild their livelihoods.
Kiribati may be a long way from home, but there are so many actions we can take here in the North East to reduce the enhanced greenhouse effect and thus save the polar ice caps. There is switching to renewable energy, favouring public transport, investing in an electric car, cycling to work, putting solar panels on our roofs, insulating our homes and so much more.
Just imagine if you knew your home was going to be submerged in the ocean because of some governments failing to act halfway across the globe. You would be rightfully angry, upset and betrayed. Please put yourself in the shoes of the people of Kiribati and take action immediately.