The Nation of Kiribati Is Growing, Not Sinking

Agresti, J. D. (2018, September 10). The Nation of Kiribati Is Growing, Not Sinking. Retrieved from
Agresti, James D. “The Nation of Kiribati Is Growing, Not Sinking.” Just Facts. 10 September 2018. Web. 16 July 2024.<>.
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James D. Agresti, “The Nation of Kiribati Is Growing, Not Sinking.” Just Facts. September 10, 2018.
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Agresti, James D. “The Nation of Kiribati Is Growing, Not Sinking.” Just Facts. September 10, 2018.

By James D. Agresti
September 10, 2018

Journalists are traveling to the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, because they believe that global warming is causing it to sink into the ocean, and it will soon be gone. However, the people of Kiribati are telling reporters this is not the case. A newsman has chalked this up to a “mental block” that makes the locals unwilling to face the truth. Yet, the facts of the matter prove that the people of Kiribati are correct, and the journalists are disconnected from reality.

The nation of Kiribati is comprised almost entirely of coral reef islands. These are typically found in the Pacific Ocean and are primarily made of gravel, silt and sand that has accumulated on coral reefs. Because these islands are only slightly above sea level and are made of loosely bound sediments, they are considered to be among the most vulnerable places on Earth to rising sea levels.

In a recent Washington Post feature entitled “The Sinking State,” Joshua Keating, a staff writer and editor at Slate, claims that “not that long from now” rising seas caused by global warming will “probably” destroy Kiribati. He also says:

  • it may be “one of the first” nations “wiped out by the effects of climate change.”
  • the entire nation could become little more than “a reinforced platform with a flag perched in the open ocean….”
  • its capital city of “Tarawa, where nearly half the country’s 110,000 residents live, could soon be substantially underwater.”

To support these predictions, Keating quotes a 2015 report that the administration of Kiribati’s former president sent to the United Nations. It says that “within a century” the nation’s farmland “will be largely submerged, while other islands and atolls will … disappear altogether.” This report contains no citations or links to document these allegations. It also repeatedly mentions the financial resources that Kiribati wants from others to mitigate these catastrophes.

Kiribati Has Actually Grown

In contrast to those claims, the authors of a 2010 paper in the journal Global and Planetary Change used aerial and satellite photographs to conduct “the first quantitative analysis of physical changes” in 27 central Pacific coral reef islands, including those in Kiribati. The study examined four islands in Tarawa over periods of 31–65 years and found that:

all four islands exhibited an increase in island area. Notably the three urbanized islands of Betio, Bairiki and Nanikai increased in area by 30, 16.3 and 12.5% respectively. Buariki in the north of the atoll exhibited an increase of 2%.

The study also found that these circumstances are not unique to Kiribati, and among the 43 islands surveyed:

  • 43% remained stable.
  • 15% decreased in area, with changes ranging from 3% to 14%.
  • 43% increased in area, with changes ranging from 3% to 30%.

In the words of the paper, the “results of this study contradict widespread perceptions that all reef islands are eroding in response to recent sea level rise.”

Likewise, the authors of a 2013 paper in the journal Sustainability Science used aerial and satellite photographs to examine “changes in shoreline position on the majority of reef islands” in Tarawa from 1943 to 2007. They found that these islands “substantially increased in size” and:

Despite the widely held perception that reef islands around the perimeter of coral atolls are eroding and will disappear as a consequence of sea-level rise resulting from global warming, this study shows that the total area of reef islands on Tarawa Atoll has increased over recent decades.

The study determined that the vast majority of this increase was from human activities. For example, people have filled in marine areas with materials from nearby beaches and shore areas to create new land. Yet, even in rural areas where natural processes dominate, the study found that “most reef islands show stability” and have had “modest natural rates” of growth.

The same paper notes that some individuals observe “evidence of erosion of reef islands” and “infer” that they “are threatened by sea-level rise” from global warming. “However,” as the authors explain, “these trends have often been shown to be cyclic” natural changes that have nothing to do with global warming.

Journalists and activists frequently point to short-term or local trends as proof that humans are causing harmful changes in the earth’s climate, but long-term, inclusive data often shows that these changes are well within the bounds of natural variation. Beyond coral reef islands, they have done this with diverse subjects like hurricanes, temperature changes, famines, rainfall, and ice conditions.

Since long before humans began using fossil fuels, the earth and its climate have been changing. As stated in the college textbook Evolution of Sedimentary Rocks, “Every area of the continents has been at one time covered by the sea, and there are some places that show clear record of being submerged at least 20 separate times.”

Global Versus Local Trends

Data from tide gauges show that the average global sea level has been generally rising since 1860 or earlier. Since 1993, instruments on satellites have also shown a rise in the average global sea level.

That does not mean that sea level has risen everywhere. The ocean’s vast waters are not evenly distributed like they are in small bodies like lakes. For instance, the sea level in the Indian Ocean is about 330 feet below the worldwide average, while the sea level in Ireland is about 200 feet above average. Even though all the oceans are connected, such variations are caused by gravity, winds, and currents.

Also, the practical effects of these phenomena are dynamic. For example, between 1992 and 2010, sea level rose by about 6 inches in the tropical Western Pacific while falling by about the same amount in San Francisco.

In other words, local sea level trends commonly differ from global ones. Hence, it is a mistake to assume that the average global trend applies to everywhere on earth.

It is also a mistake to assume that a rise in the average global sea level translates to a net loss in coastal land. Per a 2016 study published in the journal Nature, the earth gained a net total of 5,000 square miles of coastal land area from 1985 to 2015.

Mental Blocks

Near the end of his piece, Keating frets that the citizens of Kiribati “seem no more troubled about the issue” of climate change “than people in the United States are.” Reporting on his visit to Kiribati and interviews with the locals, he writes:

  • “Most people I met weren’t making plans to relocate anytime soon.”
  • “Instead, I heard a lot of frustration that the rest of the world seems to take notice of the I-Kiribati only to tell them they’re doomed.”
  • “Several people I spoke with had already given interviews about climate change to foreign reporters. ‘In my case, you are the fifth person,’ remarked Teewata Aromata…. ‘People come and ask us the same questions. They see pictures of us and think we are drowning in the ocean.’ ”

Instead of considering the possibility that these people are correct, Keating evaluates the situation and psychoanalyzes them as follows:

Yet the stubborn facts remain. Countries like the Maldives and Kiribati are probably disappearing—and not that long from now. I came to Kiribati expecting to find a place planning for its own destruction, but instead I found something more dispiriting: a place that, with a few exceptions, wasn’t even contemplating that destruction. …

The mental block that prohibits thinking about what will happen when the islands are no longer inhabitable seems to be a major impediment to planning for that eventuality. In this regard, too, Kiribati is a microcosm of the world’s unwillingness to face the reality of the future.

This episode highlights the media’s propensity to embrace false narratives and look down their noses at others who don’t. Given the effects of media on the public and governments, this can waste enormous resources on fake problems, while diverting them from real ones.

  • September 10, 2018 at 5:21 PM

    I always have found that “Just Facts” provides us with the correct information.
    “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” is a Hoax. Just follow the Money.

    • August 16, 2019 at 11:16 PM

      Perhaps they simply happen to support your own viewpoint… that’s is not the right way to find the truth!

  • September 10, 2018 at 6:25 PM

    I am reading a NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible about how we have replaced the the mythological forms of beliefs with our “modern mythology.” It is referred to “science” today. I thought this was interesting because mankind usually purports its importance via things it believes it can prove. Of course, that usually translates to a way to “make money” off the citizenry.

    • September 14, 2018 at 2:07 PM

      Science is a good thing. Facts are facts and proper analysis of those facts is, of course, a good thing.
      Christianity and Judaism do and will stand up well alongside properly done science.
      Ideology and politics using inappropriate borrowings and inventions of “science” is a bad thing.
      And yes, our enlightened and highly educated society believes just as much mythology as ever before. The Progressive ideology holding that males and females are identical, that gender is fluid, that LGBTQ+ behaviors are healthy and wholesome, that homosexual marriage should be normalized, that humans can alter the climate, and that pumping water into the ground causes earthquakes, is the height of hubris.
      Seriously, can there be any greater hubris that believing that man can create gender and that man can modify the climate?
      Compare this to the occasional claim by an outspoken Christian that the earth shall end on such-and-such a day and the very few people who actually believe. Which is the greater and large folly?

  • September 12, 2018 at 4:40 AM

    the coral islands are usually found on top of seamounts or under watere mounain ranges. But they grow due to he coral which are living organisms that turn into a very hard cement or concrete like solid type of rock when they expire as we all do leaving our offspring to continue. One reason the British Indian Ocean Territories south of the equator and the tip of India are so heavily protected from wanna be developers. The USA pays a very large contribution to that effort.

    There is an unfounded rumour of sorts that the former French slaves on the islands two or three coconut producing areas are somehow citizens. There are no citizens of the area known as the Chagos Archipelago. But there are greedy developers and reef rapers looking for a quick buck.

    The former slaves from Mauritius and a few other island countries do return once a year the graveyard of their ancestors but they were freed and repatriated by the British a hundred plus near two hundred years ago.

    Back to Coral. It can be killed off completely by man and or by nature in the form of heavy storms which did in the south side of independent Samoa’s capital island (not to be confused with the nearby American Samoa. If you get ahold of the HQ of BIOT they have a number of very interesting flora, fauna, and reef books and one history of the area.

    Kiribasi pronounced Christmas is the eastern Christmas Island .There is a another just west of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It’s the way their alphabet is used. . If you visit as we did on a sailingboat bring your own water. They exist on rain catch

  • September 12, 2018 at 4:41 AM

    PS the visitors are full of it and never took the time to learn how coral formations are reproduced.

  • September 14, 2018 at 1:55 PM

    See also the claims regarding Tangier Island, a small, charming island in the Chesapeake Bay between Virginia and Maryland. It is losing landmass, probably due to erosion.

    Do this: Look for airplane and satellite and other images of Atlantic City, New Jersey and Virginia Beach, Virginia from the 1930s and 1940s and then today. A handful of buildings were there then and now. Look at the buildings. Look at the beach. Look at the ocean’s edge. Everything is in the same place today as it was then.

    I went to Virginia Beach and stayed in hotels along the boardwalk in the late 1960s. I went to Virginia Beach and stayed in hotels along the boardwalk this year. Nothing has moved.

    Since the time of the earliest maps of the North Carolina Outer Banks in the 1500s (or 1600s?), something like five or six inlets have come and gone separating today’s Roanoke Sound (?) and Albermarle Sound from the Atlantic Ocean. Today there is only one inlet, the Oregon Inlet. In the mid-1800s (?) a sound near today’s Duck was closed by a storm. All of this opening and closing of inlets was due to storms. Not necessarily hurricanes, but ordinary big storms hitting in the right place in the right direction. …. Also, because of storms and currents, the outer banks are moving south at something like six inches a year. The bridge at Oregon inlet has to allow for this. …. None of this is caused by global warming or sea level rise, but because of plain ol’ currents and winds and storms.

    By the way, a small island was FORMED along the Outer Banks last year. This received a fair amount of news coverage, but somehow was never associated (that I saw) with claims of sea level rise.

    Some of the particulars I’ve given above re the creation and closing of inlets is from my memory.

  • October 5, 2018 at 8:11 AM

    Excellent article, thanks.

    See Tony Heller’s recent revisiting of the alarmist scammers’ prediction in 1988 that the Maldives would disappear in 30 years.

    That 30 year mark just passed last week.

    See Tony’s blog for a 1988 article with the prediction of doom for all 1100+ islands in the Maldives by 2018, and a webcam snap of the Maldives last week (hint: all the islands are still there):

  • December 31, 2018 at 3:24 PM

    “Journalists disconnected from reality…” Gee, who knew.


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