The Marshall Islands is one of four atoll nations - the other three being the Maldives, Kiribati and Tuvalu - identified as being most at risk of extinction due to the rising sea level caused by ice melting

By Ian Horswill


Posted on December 3, 2019

Marshall Islands with a population of more than 53,000 people, is facing a fight to the death, says its President Hilda Heine.

Marshall Islands, a sprawling chain of 1200 volcanic islands and coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the Philippines, was hit by ocean swells averaging 5 metres (16 feet) on 28 November which forced 200 people to flee their homes in the capital Majuro Atoll. Rocks and debris washed away roads and access to the international airport was cut off. The Red Cross set up evacuation centres at two schools, with local churches and Majuro’s mosque also offering help to fleeing residents.

“Water covers much of our land at one or other point of the year as we fight rising tides. As we speak hundreds of people have evacuated their homes after large waves caused the ocean to inundate parts of our capital in Majuro last week,” Heine said at the COP25, the annual United Nations two-week international climate change conference, being held in Madrid.

“It’s a fight to the death for anyone not prepared to flee. As a nation we refuse to flee. But we also refuse to die.”

Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands and other atoll nations Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Maldives, have been deemed at greatest risk from the rising ocean, caused by 600 billion tons of melting ice flowing into oceans that are absorbing heat twice as fast as 18 years ago.

Heine is not alone in the view that small nations like the Marshall Islands face an imminent death.

At COP25, Alliance of Small Island States‘ ambassador Lois Young rebuked to the world’s big polluters.

“We are disappointed by inadequate action by developed countries and outraged by the dithering and retreat of one of the most culpable polluters from the Paris Agreement,” she said.

“In the midst of a climate emergency, retreat and inaction are tantamount to sanctioning ecocide. They reflect profound failure to honour collective global commitment to protect the most vulnerable.

“With our very existence at stake, COP25 must demonstrate unprecedented ambition to avert ecocide.”