They built sea walls. They planted mangroves. They fought off the advancing seas. And they lost.
Climate change and rising sea levels may remove the Cataret Islands entirely from the map by 2015. These islands are located in the South Pacific off the coast of Papua New Guinea.
Already the seas are moving in, and when there are storms they reach far ashore and salt the land. So some of the people living on those islands have got an emergency grant from their government and have already begun to leave.
The Cataret Islanders are among the world’s first climate refugees. Every year for many years the sea level in the islands has risen steadily, 8.2 mm per year. It will continue. First the islands will become uninhabitable and unsafe. Then they will disappear beneath the sea.
The Cateret Islanders were first. This year they were joined by the disaster victims in Pakistan and China, the drought-plagued farmers of Russia, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and the choking, dying heat-prostrated residents of Moscow.
So many more will follow.
And if the world does nothing about it, and does not act quickly we all will follow.