Boobu Tioram, a resident of the Pacific island of Kirabati, took time out from reinforcing a seawall in front of his newly built house to speak with UNDP about what climate change has meant to his way of life.
I have moved three times, every three years I have moved, he said, standing on the beach a few metres from his home. Tioram gestured toward a point about 20 metres into the sea, and explained that his first house once stood on a spot now covered in swelling ocean waves. Each time he has moved farther inland, and each time the sea has followed.
Im not sure how long Ill be [in this house], Tioram continued. That depends on how strong my seawall here can withstand high tide waves.
UNDP believes that it is the developing world that stands to lose the most, and which is already losing out, as the effects of climate change edge toward the catastrophic. As climate negotiations open in Copenhagen, worlds away from this tiny Pacific nation consisting of 33 low lying atolls, it is important to keep in mind that for the people of Kirabati, and other poor island and coastal nations, funds for adaptation and not only prevention must top the international to-do list.
Carbon trading will be of no special consequence to us, so there has got to be some very special provisions for the victims, said Kirabati President Anote Tong. Not the potential victims, but the victims, because we are the victims, so there has to be some very deep soul searching.
Kirabati is no more than four metres high at its highest point, and 100 percent of the population lives within one kilometre of the coast, making this nation one of the most vulnerable to the effects of global warming. Its future is uncertain, including the question of whether it even has a future anymore.
The scientific research shows that by 2100 its almost certain that well have more than a metre of sea level rise, said Karen Bernard, a UNDP programme specialist in natural disaster reduction and transition. On a flat island like Kirabati that mount of sea level rise comes very far inland.
Its a very serious situation, Bernard continued. For that reason, the Government is looking for options for relocating the population.