Implications of Climate Change for the Livelihoods of Urban Dwellers in Kiribati

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Doctor of Philosophy
Title Implications of Climate Change for the Livelihoods of Urban Dwellers in Kiribati
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
As a result of climate change, coastal erosion, sea water intrusion into the fresh
water lenses, destruction of trees that are important sources of food, medicines and
building materials, and the destruction of settlements due to higher king tides and
storm surges, accompanying higher mean sea levels, are threatening the sustainable
survival of human societies on the atoll islands of Kiribati. Climate change is also
having detrimental effects on important cultural heritage including customary
practices, traditional knowledge and native languages. The people have continued
to live with the physical changes to the landscape, vegetation and water supply,
despite significant deterioration in the quality of the water, and the loss of important
traditional plants and trees that are used for ornamental, constructional, and
medicinal purposes.
The Kiribati government, along with governments of other countries comprising
low-lying atolls and reef islands, has placed considerable emphasis on strategies to
manage problems caused by climate change, especially the prospect of higher sea
levels. Population and urban development pressures have further compounded
existing problems associated with climate change. Land shortage and increasing
population on South Tarawa have made the climate change issue more critical. This
thesis examines the contemporary environmental issues linked with climate change
and its impacts on the livelihoods of urban dwellers of Kiribati.
The focus is on the country’s two main urban areas: South Tarawa in the Gilbert
group and Kiritimati in the Line group. The study assesses the dependence of urban
dwellers on their urban environment as well as examining their increasing
vulnerability to climate change. The study concludes that there is a need for further
consultation and discussion between the government of Kiribati, non-government
organizations, private institutions, church institutions and the local people, as well
as with interested overseas development partners and major financial donors, to
plan strategies not only to provide for better living conditions for the current
population but, more importantly, to ensure the islands are able to sustainably
support the existence of the people now and in years to come.

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