Bikini Atoll and the Threat of Climate Change
For the people of Bikini Atoll the disastrous consequences of climate change are inescapable. Only two meters above sea level, the atolls and their inhabitants rely on the protection of surrounding coral reefs, which act as natural barriers from destructive ocean waves. Unfortunately, since most Bikinians live in exile on the reefless island of Kili, they are at the mercy of the ocean, which grows fiercer by the day. Of all the atolls in the region, Bikini has an especially effective coral rim that encircles the lagoon making it an ideal location for settlement. It’s therefore imperative that they be able to return home.
In additional to the looming threats of climate change, the lingering impact of the nuclear tests on the local biology and ecology are imminently clear. From unsustainable land to unclean air and undrinkable water, the once vibrant Bikini Atoll yearns to be made whole again.
3.6°F / 2°C
This rise has promoted coral bleaching and contributed to rising sea level, changes to circulation patterns and more intense tropical storms. SOURCE: NOAA
More bad news for the People of Bikini
As the global climate crisis intensifies, Bikini Atoll, along with the other Marshall Islands, experiences its affects most acutely. As mentioned above, acidification and bleaching cause lasting damage to coral reefs, often resulting in their death. Without these barrier reefs, the atolls are susceptible to flooding and will be rendered uninhabitable within decades.
Frequent flooding and violent storms have subjected Bikinians to the contamination of Kili’s freshwater aquifers, while strong winds uproot trees, damage houses and cars, and capsize watercraft. In the absence of adequate infrastructure, this continued exposure will continue to threaten local homes and the safety to the population. When high tides occur, the Marshellese are trapped on their islands, with no ability to retreat to higher grounds, putting their lives at risk.
Two Possible Futures for Kili
As global carbon emissions cause average sea temperature to rise with every passing year, Kili and other low-lying places in the Marshall Islands are in danger of being overrun by waves. What will become of the Bikinians exiled on the reefless Kili? Will the odyssey that began in 1946 continue even 100 years later?