Jeremy Kelley

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In 1999, the rising sea level swallowed two islands of the nation Kiribati. Rising sea level is one of the effects of climate change to which small island nations are particularly susceptible. Considering that the average elevation of this nation of ninety thousand people on thirty-three islands and atolls is only about two meters above sea level, it is no surprise that Kiribati’s President Anote Tong considers the rising sea a threat to the very existence of his nation.6 Taking a cue from a policy first announced by the Maldives, President Tong has suggested that the solution to his nation’s disappearance could be purchasing land in another country to relocate the entire population of Kiribati. This unprecedented situation raises the question: what would be the legal status of an I-Kiribati or Maldives population on the run from the rising waters?