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Climate crisis: migration cannot be the only option for people living on ‘drowning’ islands

Alexis-Martin, Rebecca and Dyke, James and Turnbull, Jonothan and Malin, Stephanie (2019) Climate crisis: migration cannot be the only option for people living on ‘drowning’ islands. The Conversation.

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Abstract

The evidence of the climate crisis is now undeniable. But state responses to climate change often have social and political motivations, rather than addressing the realities of this threat. Since the 1980s, preventative action has been internationally stifled by the industrial agenda of a conservative political agenda which has maintained intensive subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. There has been a backlash against this lack of impetus in recent times by groups such as Extinction Rebellion, which highlights the need for significant action by wealthy Global North states. These wealthy, industrialised nations – and about 100 corporations largely headquartered within them – have been the largest drivers of climate change via fossil fuel emissions, while baulking at global agreements to provide meaningful climate aid to developing countries. The idea of drowning or sinking islands has long existed as a way to describe future risks that small island states must confront. But the reality is that these threats affect life in such places today. Many small islands states have chosen to reintroduce previously unpopular resettlement and migration policies in the face of climate change. This is the story of Kiritimati (pronounced Ki-ri-si-mas) in the Pacific – the largest coral atoll in the world. A closer look at the story of this particular island sheds light on the issues facing those living on such islands all around the world, and the inadequacy of current international policy.

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