Tidal gauges indicate the world's oceans have been rising at an annual rate of 3.2 millimeters (0.1 inches) since 1970. Many scientists expect that rate to accelerate and for climate change to trigger more intense storms, which may pose an even more pressing threat to many of the world's low-lying islands.
Kiribati's government is pursuing its own strategies. It has paid a deposit for 6,000 acres in nearby Fiji, which Kiribati President Anote Tong has said will provide food security and a possible refuge for future generations. The nation has also been talking with a Japanese firm about the possibility of constructing a floating island, which would cost billions of dollars.
Rimon Rimon, a Kiribati government spokesman who said his opinions on the matter were his own, said he thought the man in New Zealand was taking the wrong approach. He said the government is working hard to train people in skills like nursing, carpentry and automotive repairs so that if they do leave Kiribati, they can be productive in their adoptive countries.
"Kiribati may be doomed by climate change in the near future," he said. "But just claiming refugee status due to climate change is the easy way out."
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