Faced with the threat of sinking, low-lying Pacific nation Kiribati is considering relocating the entire population to man-made islands resembling giant oil rigs.
Formerly known as the Gilbert Islands, the former British colony of Kiribati is home to 103,000 people, most of them crammed into the main atoll Tarawa.
"We're considering everything... because we are running out of options," Kiribati President Anote Tong said in Auckland, where he is attending the Pacific Islands Forum, according to UK's The Independent
Tong said his country, where the highest point of land is no more than two meters above sea level, needs the world to take action on climate change.
United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who visited Kiribati on his way to the Auckland conference, appears to be an ally.
"For those who believe climate change is about some distant future, I invite them to Kiribati. Climate change is not about tomorrow. It is lapping at our feet – quite literally in Kiribati and elsewhere," Ban said in a speech on Tuesday.
Beachside villages in Kiribati, which consists of 33 coral atolls sprinkled across two million square miles of ocean, have already had to move to escape the encroaching waves.
Water supplies have been contaminated by salt water, and crops destroyed. Erosion, caused partly by storms and flooding, is increasingly serious, The Independent reported.
Manmade floating island
Tong said he had seen models of a man-made floating island, similar to an offshore oil platform and costing $2 billion.
While it sounded "like something from science fiction," he said radical ideas had to be considered.
"If you're faced with the option of being submerged with your family, what would you do?" he asked. "Would you jump on the rig... on a floating island or not? I think the answer is yes."
Other ideas included building a series of sea walls, at a cost of nearly $1 billion.
But Tong said it would be up to the international community to fund such projects, even as he lamented Kiribati had received little financial aid despite pledges from wealthier nations.
Tong said that for i-Kiribati, as his countrymen are known, it was no longer a case of adapting to a changing environment, but of survival.
He said Kiribati desperately needed the world to act to reduce carbon emissions.
For his part, Ban said his visit to Kiribati had strengthened his view that "something is seriously wrong with our current model of economic development."
"We will not succeed in reducing emissions without sustainable energy solutions," he said. — TJD, GMA News