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article imageClimate change refugees forced to leave Carteret Islands

By Haley January Eckels     Jan 16, 2008 in Environment
The people of the Carteret Islands will become the world's first climate change refugees as rising seas force them to leave their homes. This tiny atoll, which is a part of Papua New Guinea, has experienced first-hand the consequences of global warming.
The islands are submerging and scientists predict they will be completely uninhabitable as early as 2015. The government of Papua New Guinea has organized an evacuation plan that will begin this year and continue through 2020. Many of the locals do not want to leave their home, but their efforts to combat higher tides and larger waves have not helped protect their islands. A sea wall has been built and mangroves have been planted to no effect.
One problem the islanders face is a lack of food. They are currently subsisting on fish and coconuts, as high tides and waves have destroyed crops like bananas, taro, and tapioca. In the above video, locals describe the changes they have seen in recent years.
The evacuation plan will help Carteret islanders relocate to Bougainville. However, many of the refugees are reluctant to do so due to recent political strife on that island. The relocation is voluntary, and while some have gone willingly to Bougainville, some are choosing to stay on Carteret.
The island is estimated to be home to 2500 people, and the maximum altitude is 1.5 meters above sea level. Environmentalists and climate change scientists expect to see more low-lying islands in the Pacific face the challenges that are now forcing the relocation of the Carteret islanders.
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