My Country Will Be Underwater Soon — Unless We Work Together | Anote Tong | TED Talks

My Country Will Be Underwater Soon — Unless We Work Together | Anote Tong | TED Talks

Chris Anderson: Perhaps we could start
by just telling us about your country. It’s three dots there on the globe.
Those dots are pretty huge. I think each one
is about the size of California. Tell us about Kiribati. Anote Tong: Well, let me first begin
by saying how deeply grateful I am for this opportunity to share my story
with people who do care. I think I’ve been sharing my story with
a lot of people who don’t care too much. But Kiribati is comprised
of three groups of islands: the Gilbert Group on the west, we have the Phoenix Islands in the middle, and the Line Islands in the east. And quite frankly, Kiribati
is perhaps the only country that is actually
in the four corners of the world, because we are in the Northern Hemisphere,
in the Southern Hemisphere, and also in the east and the west
of the International Date Line. These islands are entirely
made up of coral atolls, and on average about
two meters above sea level. And so this is what we have. Usually not more
than two kilometers in width. And so, on many occasions,
I’ve been asked by people, “You know, you’re suffering,
why don’t you move back?” They don’t understand. They have no concept
of what it is that’s involved. With the rising sea, they say,
“Well, you can move back.” And so this is what I tell them. If we move back, we will fall off
on the other side of the ocean. OK? But these are the kinds of issues
that people don’t understand. CA: So certainly this is
just a picture of fragility there. When was it that you yourself realized that there might be
impending peril for your country? AT: Well, the story of climate change
has been one that has been going on for quite a number of decades. And when I came into office in 2003, I began talking about climate change
at the United Nations General Assembly, but not with so much passion, because then there was still
this controversy among the scientists whether it was human-induced,
whether it was real or it wasn’t. But I think that that debate
was fairly much concluded in 2007 with the Fourth Assessment
Report of the IPCC, which made a categorical statement
that it is real, it’s human-induced, and it’s predicting
some very serious scenarios for countries like mine. And so that’s when I got very serious. In the past, I talked about it. We were worried. But when the scenarios,
the predictions came in 2007, it became a real issue for us. CA: Now, those predictions are,
I think, that by 2100, sea levels are forecast to rise
perhaps three feet. There’s scenarios where
it’s higher than that, for sure, but what would you say
to a skeptic who said, “What’s three feet? You’re on average
six feet above sea level. What’s the problem?” AT: Well, I think
it’s got to be understood that a marginal rise in sea level would mean a loss of a lot of land, because much of the land is low. And quite apart from that,
we are getting the swells at the moment. So it’s not about getting two feet. I think what many people do not understand is they think climate change is something
that is happening in the future. Well, we’re at the very
bottom end of the spectrum. It’s already with us. We have communities
who already have been dislocated. They have had to move,
and every parliament session, I’m getting complaints
from different communities asking for assistance to build seawalls, to see what we can do
about the freshwater lens because it’s being destroyed, and so in my trips
to the different islands, I’m seeing evidence of communities which are now having to cope
with the loss of food crops, the contamination of the water lenses, and I see these communities
perhaps leaving, having to relocate, within five to 10 years. CA: And then, I think the country
suffered its first cyclone, and this is connected, yes?
What happened here? AT: Well, we’re on the equator, and I’m sure many of you understand
that when you’re on the equator, it’s supposed to be in the doldrums.
We’re not supposed to get the cyclones. We create them, and then we send them
either north or south. (Laughter) But they aren’t supposed to come back. But for the first time,
at the beginning of this year, the Cyclone Pam,
which destroyed Vanuatu, and in the process,
the very edges of it actually touched our two southernmost islands, and all of Tuvalu was underwater
when Hurricane Pam struck. But for our two southernmost islands, we had waves come over half the island, and so this has never happened before. It’s a new experience. And I’ve just come back
from my own constituency, and I’ve seen these beautiful trees
which had been there for decades, they’ve been totally destroyed. So this is what’s happening, but when we talk
about the rising sea level, we think it’s something
that happens gradually. It comes with the winds,
it comes with the swells, and so they can be magnified, but what we are beginning to witness
is the change in the weather pattern, which is perhaps the more urgent challenge that we will face sooner
than perhaps the rising sea level. CA: So the country
is already seeing effects now. As you look forward, what are your options
as a country, as a nation? AT: Well, I’ve been telling
this story every year. I think I visit a number of — I’ve been traveling the world
to try and get people to understand. We have a plan, we think we have a plan. And on one occasion,
I think I spoke in Geneva and there was a gentleman
who was interviewing me on something like this, and I said, “We are looking
at floating islands,” and he thought it was funny,
but somebody said, “No, this is not funny.
These people are looking for solutions.” And so I have been looking
at floating islands. The Japanese are interested
in building floating islands. But, as a country,
we have made a commitment that no matter what happens,
we will try as much as possible to stay and continue to exist as a nation. What that will take, it’s going to be
something quite significant, very, very substantial. Either we live on floating islands, or we have to build up the islands
to continue to stay out of the water as the sea level rises
and as the storms get more severe. But even that, it’s going to be
very, very difficult to get the kind of resourcing
that we would need. CA: And then the only recourse
is some form of forced migration. AT: Well, we are also looking at that because in the event
that nothing comes forward from the international community, we are preparing, we don’t want to be caught
like what’s happening in Europe. OK? We don’t want to mass migrate
at some point in time. We want to be able
to give the people the choice today, those who choose
and want to do that, to migrate. We don’t want something to happen
that they are forced to migrate without having been prepared to do so. Of course, our culture is very different,
our society is very different, and once we migrate
into a different environment, a different culture, there’s a whole lot
of adjustments that are required. CA: Well, there’s forced migration
in your country’s past, and I think just this week, just yesterday
or the day before yesterday, you visited these people. What happened here? What’s the story here? AT: Yes, and I’m sorry,
I think somebody was asking why we were sneaking off
to visit that place. I had a very good reason, because we have
a community of Kiribati people living in that part
of the Solomon Islands, but these were people who were relocated
from the Phoenix Islands, in fact, in the 1960s. There was serious drought, and the people
could not continue to live on the island, and so they were moved
to live here in the Solomon Islands. And so yesterday it was very interesting
to meet with these people. They didn’t know who I was.
They hadn’t heard of me. Some of them later recognized me, but I think they were very happy. Later they really wanted to have
the opportunity to welcome me formally. But I think what I saw yesterday
was very interesting because here I see our people. I spoke in our language, and of course
they spoke back, they replied, but their accent, they are beginning
not to be able to speak Kiribati properly. I saw them, there was
this lady with red teeth. She was chewing betel nuts, and it’s not something we do in Kiribati. We don’t chew betel nuts. I met also a family who have married
the local people here, and so this is what is happening. As you go into another community,
there are bound to be changes. There is bound to be
a certain loss of identity, and this is what we will be
looking for in the future if and when we do migrate. CA: It must have been
just an extraordinarily emotional day because of these questions about identity, the joy of seeing you and perhaps
an emphasized sense of what they had lost. And it’s very inspiring to hear you say
you’re going to fight to the end to try to preserve
the nation in a location. AT: This is our wish. Nobody wants ever to leave their home, and so it’s been
a very difficult decision for me. As a leader, you don’t make plans
to leave your island, your home, and so I’ve been asked
on a number of occasions, “So how do you feel?” And it doesn’t feel good at all. It’s an emotional thing,
and I’ve tried to live with it, and I know that on occasions, I’m accused
of not trying to solve the problem because I can’t solve the problem. It’s something that’s got
to be done collectively. Climate change is a global phenomenon,
and as I’ve often argued, unfortunately, the countries,
when we come to the United Nations — I was in a meeting with
the Pacific Island Forum countries where Australia and New Zealand
are also members, and we had an argument. There was a bit of a story in the news because they were arguing
that to cut emissions, it would be something
that they’re unable to do because it would affect the industries. And so here I was saying, OK, I hear you, I understand what you’re saying, but try also to understand what I’m saying because if you do not cut your emissions, then our survival is on the line. And so it’s a matter for you
to weigh this, these moral issues. It’s about industry as opposed to
the survival of a people. CA: You know, I ask you yesterday
what made you angry, and you said, “I don’t get angry.”
But then you paused. I think this made you angry. AT: I’d refer you to my earlier
statement at the United Nations. I was very angry, very frustrated
and then depressed. There was a sense of futility that we are fighting a fight
that we have no hope of winning. I had to change my approach. I had to become more reasonable because I thought people would listen
to somebody who was rational, but I remain radically rational,
whatever that is. (Laughter) CA: Now, a core part
of your nation’s identity is fishing. I think you said pretty much everyone
is involved in fishing in some way. AT: Well, we eat fish
every day, every day, and I think there is no doubt
that our rate of consumption of fish is perhaps the highest in the world. We don’t have a lot of livestock, so it’s fish that we depend on. CA: So you’re dependent on fish,
both at the local level and for the revenues
that the country receives from the global fishing business for tuna, and yet despite that, a few years ago
you took a very radical step. Can you tell us about that? I think something happened
right here in the Phoenix Islands. AT: Let me give some of the background
of what fish means for us. We have one of the largest
tuna fisheries remaining in the world. In the Pacific, I think we own
something like 60 percent of the remaining tuna fisheries, and it remains relatively healthy
for some species, but not all. And Kiribati is one of the three
major resource owners, tuna resource owners. And at the moment, we have been getting something like 80 to 90
percent of our revenue from access fees, license fees. CA: Of your national revenue. AT: National revenue, which drives everything that we do in governments, hospitals,
schools and what have you. But we decided to close this,
and it was a very difficult decision. I can assure you, politically,
locally, it was not easy, but I was convinced that we had to do this in order to ensure
that the fishery remains sustainable. There had been some indications
that some of the species, in particular the bigeye,
was under serious threat. The yellowfin was also heavily fished. Skipjack remains healthy. And so we had to do something like that,
and so that was the reason I did that. Another reason why I did that was because I had been asking
the international community that in order to deal with climate change,
in order to fight climate change, there has got to be sacrifice,
there has got to be commitment. So in asking the international community
to make a sacrifice, I thought we ourselves
need to make that sacrifice. And so we made the sacrifice. And forgoing commercial fishing in the Phoenix Islands protected area would mean a loss of revenue. We are still trying to assess
what that loss would be because we actually closed it off
at the beginning of this year, and so we will see by the end of this year what it means in terms
of the lost revenue. CA: So there’s so many things
playing into this. On the one hand,
it may prompt healthier fisheries. I mean, how much are you able
to move the price up that you charge for the remaining areas? AT: The negotiations
have been very difficult, but we have managed
to raise the cost of a vessel day. For any vessel
to come in to fish for a day, we have raised the fee from —
it was $6,000 and $8,000, now to $10,000, $12,000 per vessel day. And so there’s been
that significant increase. But at the same time,
what’s important to note is, whereas in the past these fishing boats might be fishing in a day
and maybe catch 10 tons, now they’re catching maybe 100 tons
because they’ve become so efficient. And so we’ve got to respond likewise. We’ve got to be very, very careful
because the technology has so improved. There was a time when the Brazilian fleet
moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They couldn’t. They started experimenting
if they could, per se. But now they’ve got ways of doing it,
and they’ve become so efficient. CA: Can you give us a sense
of what it’s like in those negotiations? Because you’re up against companies that have hundreds of millions
of dollars at stake, essentially. How do you hold the line? Is there any advice you can give to other leaders who are dealing
with the same companies about how to get
the most for your country, get the most for the fish? What advice would you give? AT: Well, I think we focus
too often on licensing in order to get the rate of return, because what we are getting
from license fees is about 10 percent
of the landed value of the catch on the side of the wharf,
not in the retail shops. And we only get about 10 percent. What we have been trying
to do over the years is actually to increase
our participation in the industry, in the harvesting, in the processing, and eventually, hopefully, the marketing. They’re not easy to penetrate, but we are working towards that, and yes, the answer would be to enhance. In order to increase our rate of return,
we have to become more involved. And so we’ve started doing that, and we have to restructure the industry. We’ve got to tell these people
that the world has changed. Now we want to produce the fish ourselves. CA: And meanwhile,
for your local fishermen, they are still able to fish, but what is business like for them? Is it getting harder?
Are the waters depleted? Or is that being run
on a sustainable basis? AT: For the artisanal fishery, we do not participate
in the commercial fishing activity except only to supply the domestic market. The tuna fishery is really
entirely for the foreign market, mostly here in the US, Europe, Japan. So I am a fisherman, very much, and I used to be able to catch yellowfin. Now it’s very, very rare
to be able to catch yellowfin because they are being lifted
out of the water by the hundreds of tons by these purse seiners. CA: So here’s a couple
of beautiful girls from your country. I mean, as you think about their future, what message would you have for them and what message
would you have for the world? AT: Well, I’ve been telling the world
that we really have to do something about what is happening to the climate because for us, it’s about
the future of these children. I have 12 grandchildren, at least. I think I have 12, my wife knows. (Laughter) And I think I have eight children. It’s about their future. Every day I see my grandchildren,
about the same age as these young girls, and I do wonder, and I get angry sometimes, yes I do. I wonder what is to become of them. And so it’s about them that we should be telling everybody, that it’s not about
their own national interest, because climate change,
regrettably, unfortunately, is viewed by many countries
as a national problem. It’s not. And this is the argument
we got into recently with our partners, the Australians and New Zealanders, because they said,
“We can’t cut any more.” This is what one of the leaders,
the Australian leader, said, that we’ve done our part,
we are cutting back. I said, What about the rest?
Why don’t you keep it? If you could keep
the rest of your emissions within your boundaries,
within your borders, we’d have no question. You can go ahead as much as you like. But unfortunately,
you’re sending it our way, and it’s affecting
the future of our children. And so surely I think that is the heart
of the problem of climate change today. We will be meeting in Paris
at the end of this year, but until we can think of this
as a global phenomenon, because we create it,
individually, as nations, but it affects everybody else, and yet, we refuse
to do anything about it, and we deal with it as a national problem, which it is not — it is a global issue, and it’s got to be
dealt with collectively. CA: People are incredibly bad
at responding to graphs and numbers, and we shut our minds to it. Somehow, to people, we’re slightly better
at responding to that sometimes. And it seems like it’s
very possible that your nation, despite, actually because of
the intense problems you face, you may yet be the warning light
to the world that shines most visibly, most powerfully. I just want to thank you,
I’m sure, on behalf of all of us, for your extraordinary leadership
and for being here. Mr. President, thank you so much. AT: Thank you. (Applause)

Posts created 29689

72 thoughts on “My Country Will Be Underwater Soon — Unless We Work Together | Anote Tong | TED Talks


    Dumb fucks. The climate has been in a state of flux since the dawn of time and will continue to be until its dusk. Stopping this would require us to stop entropy, aka literally impossible.

    Stop enabling bureaucrats and pearl-clutchers' degenerative behavior.

  2. Kiribati has been doomed since the end of the Ice Age. Sucks for them, but them's the facts. It's like building your house on bog and then getting mad when it starts sinking.


  4. The guy is super slow with his phrases, talks about unnecessary stuff and is attached to outcome (cares what people about him to the point that he is making stuff), that's why its hard to focus on what's he saying. Damn, it's annoying.

    In order to see if its us changing this island we would have to have proof that it existed for thousand years, not decades. Else we can assume that it happens every century/decades on and on and it's not us.

    We might accelerate climate changes, but we need proof not emotional stories.

  5. Boo fucking hoo. A significant portion of the United States used to be underwater (Western Interior Seaway). This is the way the world works. To think that the climate and geography are suddenly going to freeze where they are and accommodate us humans is just ridiculous.

  6. I once believed in global warming but then the ice didn't melt it has actually grown. Then TPTB changed the name to Climate change for some reason! Along with the climate change emails that got leaked it makes it very hard for me to believe anymore.

  7. It seems like more and more subjects discussed on the internet are being filled with propaganda bots from rich companies (oil), political groups (NRA) and countries (Russia).

    Normally, opinions slowly change as more and more evidence for different views on subjects are introduced into our daily news and we see polls on the subjects reflect the change of people's opinions (in the real world) and the overall comments on those subjects here on youtube slowly change from being minority views to majority views.

    But there is always something fishy going on when a subject/problem that most of the world knows is real (think only the U.S has problems with it on a national scale) is suddenly getting commented on that it is fake or propaganda or along those lines, by this many commenters, just over night.

    These sorts of large scale comment swarms of lies about what most of the first world knows is real, is normally only seen on subjects about Russia and in later years about guns.

    Today is the first time I've seen this happening with the climate change debate (outside of U.S news) So it seems more and more rich organisations are understanding the value of the "Russia bots".

    It seems like more and more debates where one side is backed by scientific facts and (following them can save people's lives, health, economy etc) where the only reason people are against the facts are because of the propaganda from the powerful people/organisations who can profit from us not changing our ways.

    Sidenote: The irony is that the propaganda says that the scientists are lying because they want to make money. Yeah sure…. It's sooo likely that scientists who have rather avarage wages have so much power and influence that they can control all the world's scientific research and it's toootally not the industry that earns more than the most countries combined who has that power.

  8. The Earth is warming up naturally without human pollution too. These people are screwed anyways, so they should leave the country now.

  9. Your country will be underwater soon. Here's a tip: MOVE.

    And next time don't build your house where we know water will eventually wash over you, like coastal areas and tiny flat islands ;-D

  10. And yet we (myself included) waste so many things food, energy, resources such as paper. A number of times we are not greatful for clean water, a certain level of security, high life expectancy and I don't know if I justify all this.

  11. I have a genuine question: why is it that so many americans are SO uneducated about science and ecology? Something must be wrong with your education system.

  12. There is still a great deal of uncertainty about climate theory,
    It is not clear that the rise in co2 is anthropogenic, and the climate hasn't warmed in the 20 years according to RSS satellite data, the very satellite designed to measure changes in climate,
    Or that atmospheric co2 has anything like the effects postulated by the IPCC,
    Nor is it clear that the climate policies we are pursuing will have any material effect on atmospheric co2 or the climate,
    It is very clear that we are unable to predict future changes,
    All the predictions so far have been falsified by the data,
    It is clear that our climate policy will do far more economic damage than climate change it's self.

    The scientific evidence does not support the great floods and droughts, famine and pestilence from global warming which the Climate Cult has been demanding from their priests.

  13. So, they get inundated by a typhoon and blame it on rising sea levels? What a poor argument. The world WILL cool over the next decade, there is no question about it. This reminds me of stories of ancient astronomers using their knowledge of solar and lunar eclipse to keep people under their influence. "Do as I say or I'll make the sun dark!" lol

  14. To all the uneducated comments.
    What does it matter whether we all agree if there is or is not climate change?
    We are intelligent enough to realise that we can create low carbon emissions through renewable sources. Not only will we reduce carbon output but creating a healthy environment will much fewer toxic chemicals that affect human health.
    We don't have to use all the fossil fuels before we go alternate.

  15. You retarded people do understand the concept of plate tech tonic's????continents do sink, having nothing to do with raising tides!!!!

  16. I worked in downtown LA in 1969 when it was believed that smog wasn't caused by car exhaust. But I saw after every 3 day weekend how clean the air was and how bad it got after one week of traffic.

  17. …"Unless we work together" …to build every building up on stilts and get dredges to pump sand onto the island and raise the whole island up to the new building Level. Then move to the next island or city.

    Because Global Warming is real and it's too late to stop the sea level from rising. Face facts.

  18. Many cities and in fact continents are now hundreds of feet underwater, and are there with the aid of humans. People as ignorant as Bangladesh Miami and New Orleans should never have been built 6 inches above sea level. All you Al Goreans need to look at the science, get off the cool aid and get with the program. With all the information out there at your fingertips, there is no need to be so ignorant.

  19. Before it was an atoll, it was a volcano, as every one knows volcano collapse in its center at the end of their activity, and the edge showing as it looks now is called an atoll, an atoll could very well still collapse?… therefore it is not the water rising but the former volcano still sinking, water stays the same regardless of ice melting, only the earth crust change, tectonic plaques etc,

    Climate Change is a HoAX to get $$$$$$$$

    The climate is changing! It's getting colder!!
    Only higher taxes will help things warm up in 6 months.

    It's anti government anything as the governments can't hide the bullshit anymore. We will move on and this is about the carbon taxes to come from fake man made global warming.

    Global poverty march. Global enslavement march. Global march for Neo-Feudalism It is funny to watch these idiots cheer for their own demise. The indisputable fact that the richest families in the world came up with the global warming/climate change idea and used their foundations to push it on the public via media and the Universities they fund should be a big red flag for you fools. The whole agenda is out there, there is nothing hidden.. They want to use so called climate change to take what little freedoms you have left away from you. They want to tax you into poverty and those fools cheer it on.

  20. Haha, funny comments 😀 Don't read them. You will die from laughing while reading them. I already died several times. But I can give you a summary: "There is no climate crisis. It's just BS, made by goverment. HOAX!" 😀
    I'm pretty sure these are bots, trolls .. or idiots..
    The best is: It doesn't even matter 😀
    Best future-scenario (Even idiots can believe this): We will change from fossil energy to renewable/fission/fusion energy because we will run out from fossil energy. It's a question of "when" not "if". Why not faster and controlled? Crybaby: "Because change is expensive"-> Human: "Bullshit. Expensive now or later is the same! There is just the fact that if we're doing it the faster/controlled way via goverment, that we can prevent something 97% of scientists believe. It's called climate crisis, i think."

  21. Global cooling! No, global warming! No, climate change, any change! Just pay your tax to a global fascist dictatorship and shut up.

  22. Deniers all live on large contenital land masses and to them it is simple, make less money and save persons who live on small islands, or continue to make money at the current rate and destroy entire cultures and people's. We all know what they prefer….. they believe certain types of people are expendable in the pursuit of profit.

  23. Good that people are trying to adapt for survival instead of being ignorant, stubbornly arrogant, and full of fear and hopelessness.

  24. I rarely listen to an interview more than 7 – 15 mins. But this is different. .my heart was listening the whole time.
    People now are blinded focusing on self-interest more and wasting time on temporary craziness, instead of being aware of the global dstruction killing us all slowly.
    We need to spread real education of lifE And humanity. Unite!!
    Thnx 4 this.

  25. Governments & citizens remain unprepared.
    We in northern climes take our food supply for granted.
    We also dismiss the obvious costs of corporate pollution of the Environment eg increasing serious illness & early death of young people.

  26. cuanto será el dolor ,al pasar el tiempo esperando que yegue la solución .y la solución estaba dentro , pero al estar todo el día viendo fuera no sabiendo no siquiera quien mira .
    podría continuar pero ….

  27. What a committed president! I greatly appreciate his extraordinary effort in leading his country. When will be the day when countries all over the world join hands to deal with climate change globally?! It is a GLOBAL issue. Global citizens are suffering… I do hope the sacrifice this nation makes will be valued 😐

  28. The earth lives and breaths, sea levels rise and fall( just look at all the civilization under water), earth quakes destroy, ice sheets melt and reform and the sun has a huge say in all of this probably more than anything else. For god sake continents are as you know moving as we speak. How are we responsible for climate change.

  29. i was born in tarawa and when i was adopted everyone in tarawa knew who me and my new parents were, the president used to invite us to go with them somewhere and he used to kiss me when i was a baby and now im really sad its sinking

  30. When I first watched this I thought everybody have the same feeling like me that we need to face with climate change seriously. But when I read the comments, I was surprise because so many people think this is lies and stupid. Can anyone explain why???

  31. Everybody talking about Fake and Real and stuff… just STOP that for a sec and listen to this guy while closing your eyes… Does he sounds like Morgan Freeman or Not. Like if you think so.

    Also if you like, then you support the fight against Climate Change.

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