Losing Paradise: The Faces of Climate Change in Kiribati

The nation of Kiribati will be uninhabitable within the next 30 to 50 years if sea levels continue to rise. Kiribati is a South Pacific island nation consisting of 33 islands and coral atolls, most of which lie fewer than 2 meters above sea level. The surrounding sea levels are rising at a rapid rate as carbon emissions increase global temperatures, threatening not only to submerge the islands, but to infiltrate fresh water sources, water wells, and farms.

The scarcity of fresh water and violent waves along the shores of the islands have forced nearly half of the country’s population to relocate to Tarawa, the capital, where overcrowding and poor sanitation are contributing to an increasingly unsuitable environment. Most of the country is preparing for migration, but it will be difficult to maintain the culture, community, and subsistence lifestyle that are tied to the islands.

Washington University student fellow Janice Cantieri's project looks at the lives and stories of individuals in Kiribati facing the imminent end of their community and culture. She brings the broad topic of climate change to a personal scale.