“Te Mauri, Te Raoi ao Te Tabomoa”

— Kiribati Motto translates as “Health, Peace and Prosperity” —

A long time ago when I was working for the MOD I wrote an article for the company magazine titled something like “Why turning a light off in Shropshire today could be a great Xmas present for Kiribati in 2050” (I think that might actually be the subtitle as I’m normally more snappy).

I went on the explain that Kiribati (which as The Gilbert Islands was part of the UK until 1979) is likely to be one of the shortest-lived states on Earth as rising sea levels are already inundating parts of their territory. To add to that the rising water table was contaminating much of their arable land with salt damaging their ability to grow food.

I went on to discuss that most of their problems were due to what was then called “Global Warming” (which we more correctly now refer to as “Climate Change”) and that our unthinking actions thousands of miles away were contributing to a global problem that these innocent people were already experiencing and which could ultimately prove catastrophic for everyone.

I advocated prudent energy saving measures to reduce unnecessary Carbon emissions and avoid wasting non-renewable resources – a message I’ve now been repeating for almost 40 years…

The world has moved on in over a decade. The problem has become mainstream with Governments all over the world pledging to reduce their national Greenhouse Gas production by 2050 with the intent of keeping the increase in global temperature below 2C. Unfortunately, that won’t help the I-Kiribati as the icecaps will still melt (well strictly the ice and snow on land in the Arctic and Antarctic as floating ice doesn’t affect sea levels) and the sea-level will rise, and Kiribati will still sink below the waves even with that limited increase (if it can be held to that level). Many people have visited that touchstone of Climate Change to examine the problem and experience an apparent earthly paradise before it disappears – ironically increasing their Carbon Footprint in the process.

To add to their issues, another consequence of our burning fossil fuels is damaging the seas around Kiribati and harming their economy. Increasing sea temperature and acidification is causing “bleaching” of much of the coral in the oceans around the islands, rendering it lifeless and destroying the core of the ecosystem. The damage moves up the food chain and fish, hitherto one reliable source of food, become less easy to catch. When I wrote the first article I didn’t know about that – I think maybe no-one did.

We have continued to release Carbon Dioxide and other Greenhouse Gases at a rate above that which the environment can absorb, and we can expect almost all that we have released since I wrote my original article to be still in the atmosphere in 2050 and beyond, adding to the damage to the planet’s ecosystem and making it harder for us to restore balance.

So I’ll repeat my message – as well as technological advances like renewable energy and carbon capture- we all need to take simple prudent measures to reduce consumption – like turning off a light in Shropshire (or wherever you happen to be) or even making sure the Television isn’t left on “standby”,  could just help save the I-Kiribati before they become 110,000 martyrs to Industrial development, indulgence and plain laziness.

Andy Clarke BSc CEng MIGEM MEI CMVP Chartered Energy Engineer is an Independent Energy Consultant, Fellow of the Energy Manager’s Association and a committee member of both the UKAEE and the NE Branch of the Energy Institute.