"System change is now inevitable. Either because we do something about it, or because we will be hit by climate change. '...

"We need to develop economic models that are fit for purpose. The current economic frameworks, the ones that dominate our governments, these frameworks... the current economic frameworks, the neoclassical, the market frameworks, can deal with small changes. It can tell you the difference, if a sock company puts up the price of socks, what the demand for socks will be. It cannot tell you about the sorts of system level changes we are talking about here. We would not use an understanding of laminar flow in fluid dynamics to understand turbulent flow. So why is it we are using marginal economics, small incremental change economics, to understand system level changes?"

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Kiribati Bails Out

The low-lying island nation of Kiribati (formerly "Christmas Island") is buying real estate on the larger Fiji Island and planning to move everybody out, on account of, well, you know, water.
The country's outgoing president Anote Tong said the accelerating effects of climate change meant he had given up dealing with the day-to-day issues to concentrate on finding creative solutions for his low-lying country.

He told a climate change conference in Wellington those include building up the atolls, floating islands and buying land in Fiji.
Mr Tong said he had also tried to motivate the 100,000 strong population to prepare and adapt themselves for what he calls migration with dignity.
(Image of failed Kiribati seawall via indaily.com.au)


William Connolley said...

Could be a sensible solution. How does it stack up, cost-wise?

Michael Tobis said...

Odd, coming from someone like you who lives in such a culturally and historically rich place. To your question, I don't know, maybe, but this doesn't scale to Bangladesh worth a damn.

Also as I pointed out here a few years back, there's huge infrastructure risk in developed countries. This issue is coming up now on the US east coast, where sea level rise is accelerated by regional climate change.

The point is not how individuals or particular groups cope so much as that the problems are already starting and getting in gear for the adaptation is happening in some quarters (while not in others where it really ought to).

Tom said...

"An increasing number of atoll studies are not supporting claims of Pacific island leaders that “islands are sinking.” Scientific studies published this year show, for example, that land area in Tuvalu’s capital atoll of Funafuti grew seven percent over the past century despite significant sea level rise. Another study reported that 23 of 27 atoll islands across Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Federated States of Micronesia either increased in area or remained stable over recent decades."


I sometimes look for grand and overarching reasons not to take care of daily business as well. Fortunately I have a wife.

Michael Tobis said...



Lots of caveats there.

I think the main trouble with this kind of "growth" is, you don't live on an average area. For one thing, new coral detritus isn't really dry land yet. For another, if your island gets swamped by storms more often it's little consolation that its area is increasing.

Think about it. Pictures of atolls look like low-lying land anywhere. What does this "new area" look like? How long would it take to develop soil?

I'm not an expert on this by any means, but I find it hard to believe that this sort of growth helps in rapid sea level rise scenarios. As usual, it's crucial to remember that you ain't seen nothin' yet.