Christmas Island Birds and Climate Change

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noddy birds
Brown Noddies

I just spent a week on Christmas Island in the country of Kiribati, 1200 miles southwest of Hawaii. This is my second visit to this volcanic coral reef for a fishing trip, and of course watching birds. It has been 15 years since my last visit and although not much has changed, one thing definitely has – the water level. Coconut plantations that were high and dry 15 years ago now have saltwater puddles in them. My local fishing guide told me that sandbars and reefs around the island are becoming inundated. The government of Kiribati has noticed too and is trying to purchase land in Fiji to move the population to as the ocean rises.

Christmas Island is a premier location for serious fishermen interested in fishing for bonefish or ocean species. Shortly after my return home I met a fellow fisherman at a party and told him of the island’s inundation. He said “maybe the island is sinking” which I though was a silly response. Then it dawned on me that this fellow was a climate change denier.

Due to the ridiculous stance of global-warming deniers, scientific illiterates that they are, and politicizing the issue, little has been done about addressing the causes and solutions to the problem. On Christmas Island, home to thousands of seabirds, rising water will not only wipe out habitats for the birds, but the homes, and jobs of the locals who have been there for countless generations. Brown, Black, and Gray Noddies, frigatebirds, boobies, and others will have a difficult time finding alternate nesting sites as Christmas Island is hundreds of miles from any other landmass.

“Much of Kiribati, a collection of 33 coral atolls and reef islands scattered across a swath of the Pacific Ocean about twice the size of Alaska, lies no higher than six feet above sea level. The latest climate models predict that the world’s oceans could rise five to six feet by 2100. The prospects of rising seas and intensifying storms “threaten the very existence and livelihoods of large segments of the population,” the government told the United Nations in a report last year. Half of the 6,500-person village of Bikenibeu, for instance, could be inundated by 2050 by sea-level rises and storm surges, according to a World Bank study.” NYTimes, July 2, 2016

It’s been at least 50 years since the problem of climate change has become apparent to scientists and at least 30 years since it has been public knowledge, although it was first called “the greenhouse effect.”

When, oh when, are our leaders in congress going to make decisions based upon science and what is good for the country and not what is good for their campaign funding? I don’t have much hope. Climate change is happening, it is not a hoax and it is not exaggerated. It is a real and serious problem that needs immediate attention. The birds need a solution and so do we.

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