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Kiribati -- the Future of a Drowning Pacific Capital

This project details the futures of more than 100 cities and towns across the globe as they fight to overcome all the grave socio-environmental challenges of the 21st century. As part of this process, we highlight the future of Tarawa, the capital of the Pacific Island nation of Kiribati.

Kiribati, a nation composed of 33 atolls and reef islands scattered across the central Pacific Ocean, faces an existential threat from global sea level rise. Most of Kiribati's land is barely a few meters above sea level, making it extremely susceptible to even minor increases in ocean levels. Rising sea levels, driven by climate change, contribute to coastal erosion, more frequent and severe storm surges, and saltwater intrusion into freshwater supplies. This environmental degradation jeopardizes the habitability of the islands, endangering the homes, infrastructure, and livelihoods of the Kiribati people.

To combat these threats, innovative solutions are being proposed, including the construction of towering solar-powered skyscrapers. Building skyscrapers on the islands could provide a resilient living space above the rising sea levels. These high-rise buildings would not only offer secure housing but could also integrate renewable energy systems, such as solar panels, to ensure a sustainable power supply. The vertical design maximizes the limited land area, potentially accommodating a larger population and incorporating facilities for education, healthcare, and community activities.

Future Kiribati

Tarawa, the Capital City of Kiribati -- 22nd Century

In addition to urban infrastructure, environmental measures like planting mangroves can play a crucial role. Mangroves are effective at stabilizing coastlines and reducing erosion through their complex root systems, which trap sediments and dissipate wave energy. They also serve as natural barriers against storm surges, mitigating the impact of extreme weather events. Moreover, mangroves support biodiversity and enhance fishery resources, contributing to food security for the local population.

By combining these approaches, Kiribati can create a multifaceted defense against the encroaching ocean. Skyscrapers would provide immediate and long-term housing solutions, while mangroves would reinforce natural coastal defenses, creating a more resilient and sustainable living environment for the Kiribati people.


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