Headline: As sea levels rise, Kiribati eyes 6,000 acres in Fiji as new home for 103,000 islanders. Article.
From the article:
Tong said some villages have already moved and there have been increasing instances of sea water contaminating the island’s underground fresh water, which remains vital for trees and crops. He said changing rainfall, tidal and storm patterns pose as least as much threat as ocean levels, which so far have risen only slightly.
Some scientists have estimated the current level of sea rise in the Pacific at about 2 millimeters (0.1 inches) per year. Many scientists expect that rate to accelerate due to climate change.
I have two points to make.
1) The rate of sea level rise is so slow that it would take over a decade to rise an inch leaving the islanders a good deal of time to make their decision.
2) The population of Kiribati has more than doubled in the past 50 years. Modern water consuming devices such as plumbing, dish washers, refrigeration, air conditioning have become more common. Tourism has increased as well. These factors result in a dramatic increase in fresh water consumption. That dramatic increase depletes fresh water aquifers. When the aquifer falls below point X salt water intrudes. The rate at which the fresh water is consumed as well as the rate of increase in consumption exceeds the rate of sea level rise. What does this mean? Kiribati’s fresh water is at risk from over consumption not from the sea level rising.
The moral of the story: Islands have limited resources, that’s why island dwarfism occurs. When the resources of an island get stressed bad things happen. In the present case resorting to fears of the consequences of global warming are silly at best. What is perhaps most troubling is the lost of an opportunity to note the real problem… poor management of the immediate environment can push it beyond the brink.