Can Kiribati Simultaneously Grow and Sink ?

A few weeks ago, an Australian columnist discussed Kiribati and the funding is receives from Aus Aid and whether it ‘cries climate change’ in order to keep receiving it.

For those that don’t know Andrew Bolt, he is someone who writes a column in an Australian newspaper, as far right wing as you can get, and usually generally written in a tone that tends to whinge and complain rather than be of anything positive or left wing for that matter.

I can’t stand the guy, but whatever, I’m unashamedly as far left wing as you can get. So we’re going to disagree. Fine. I’m happy to disagree on many issues and be on my way.

But hey, write about my country in a negative way, and I start filing my nails…thems fighting words.

Bolt cried false to climate change. He underplayed Kiribati struggles with rising sea waters, writing that Pacific Islands use ‘sob stories about global warming drowning their islands’.

So why should I give this guy any more attention? Well, Bolt mentioned a research paper that reported the Pacific Islands – more specifically, atolls – are actually growing in size rather than shrinking. I was interested in this but dismissed the article because of his rhetoric. And then I checked myself.

I remembered why I started this blog in the first place; to allow myself the opportunity to learn, explore and discuss in my own words, everything regarding climate change in the Pacific.

Tarawa at low tide

So, I’ve done some reading and here is what I gather:

Atolls are ever changing collections of coral, and therefore are land masses that can change in size and evolve. In terms of size of the area growing, yes, coral and sand have accumulated to increase the area of the atoll – but increasing in land that is liveable?


But is Kiribati accumulating land quick enough to contend with the increase of rising oceans?

Absolutely not.

I remember visiting an unimane (respected male elder) on Marakei and I asked him about the state of the ocean. He explained to me that atolls float on top of the ocean, ever changing with coral and sand. But, he warned me, the waves are increasing in height at a speed he had never seen before. And this was what he spoke wisely about. The land changes, but the ocean is increasing in height that the atolls can’t keep up. Life as we know it, will eventually come to an end.

This man, who sat in his kiakia, quietly observing the Pacific ocean every day, had so much knowledge to share. He knew the ocean like no one else. Certainly more than Andrew Bolt, who is confidently speaking about the Kiribati people without ever attempting to listen to them or observe their living conditions.

I should also note that there are so many small islands that have disappeared already throughout the Pacific.


Bolt ‘informs’ us that these countries with ever changing atolls can ‘reclaim land’. This is a ridiculous, throwaway comment. Kiribati people can’t set up house on coral and sand.

Anote Tong, Kiribati’ ex-president who served the maximum of 12 years has already spoken of the issue of islands eroding in some areas and then growing in others.

“It doesn’t matter, because you can’t keep moving houses,” says Mr Tong.

Will Kiribati disappear entirely? Perhaps not. A blob of dirt and sand will most likely still show up on our satellites. Sure, if the citizens leave their homes for a few hundred years, maybe the growing coral will turn into habitable land.

But in the meantime, homes are being flooded with sea water, freshwater wells are being inundated at high tide and all the buildings on the island are constantly being tended to from salt water damage.

There is so much climate science out there for us to get our hands on. We actually live in a fascinating time where knowledge is a few clicks away and we have the opportunity to learn so much.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, there will always be people out there like Andrew Bolt – denying that climate change exists and refusing to understand the struggles the Kiribati and similar countries are living with.

For me, I’m glad to read these articles. Even though they enrage me, it forces me to investigate and research topics myself – and that is always a good thing.

The changes our world need to make is an urgency for Kiribati people. Evolving atolls does not change that.


P.S. I haven’t ignored the topic of Aus Aid in Kiribati – I will write about this soon!


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Saurab says:

    I completely understand how you feel. I recently read a blog that nonchalantly dismissed climate change with arguments like “oil is renewable, it was nature that created it, remember?”
    It is infuriating.

    A lot of these people are stupid, some are misinformed. I JUST wrote a post on why people don’t believe in climate change as well, nice to see someone else sharing my thoughts.

  2. Marianne Wheelaghan says:

    Excellent, as always 🙂

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