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Environment

What to do when your island sinks? Move to Arkansas!

Ever heard of Kiribati, Tuvalu or the Marshall Islands? If you haven’t, it could be because they’re sinking. Why, you ask? Because of rapidly rising sea levels due to the effects of climate change (That's explained the awesome video above).

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that sea levels will rise in the range of 26 - 68cm by the year 2100. This doesn’t bode well for low-lying islands, particularly in the Pacific Ocean.

People who call these islands home are already feeling the heat (no pun intended). Some are already migrating to higher land, and they’re traveling farther than you may expect. The most common destination is north-west Arkansas. The region has the largest population of Marshallese in the continental US-10,000 to be exact. Since the 1980’s, Marshallese have been migrating to Arkansas in search of jobs and an education.

People who migrate due to a changing climate are known as environmental or climate refugees. They are a phenomenon known as, “a person displaced by climatically induced environmental disasters”. Such disasters result from incremental and rapid ecological change, resulting in increased droughts, desertification, sea level rise and extreme weather like hurricanes, cyclones, fires, mass flooding and tornadoes.

The mass global migration and border conflicts caused by environmental migration is considered a national security risk and the term climate wars is purportedly being discussed in Washington DC The effects of climate change could thus extend beyond sinking islands.

The President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, has told Bloomberg Businessweek, “If nothing is done, Kiribati will go down into the ocean. By about 2030 we start disappearing. Our existence will come to an end in stages. First, the freshwater lens will be destroyed. The breadfruit trees, the taro, the saltwater is going to kill them.”

Global citizens have been, are and will continue (I hope!) to work to end extreme poverty by the year 2030 . It’s saddening to realize that even fixing this injustice, the world is still facing another human crisis. Everyone must take action now to reduce our carbon emissions, for the sake of the planet and the thousands of people who could lose their homes, culture and heritage due to our preventable actions.