Impact of Climate Change
Photo courtesy of Phillip Welch
"...to move us from our home is tantamount to asking us to eliminate a society from the face of the earth. We're talking about the elimination of tradition, language...of our way of life."
- RMI Minister Tony deBrum
Columbia University, 2014
The Marshall Islands is made up of 29 low-lying coral atolls in the north, central Pacific. The highest elevation in the Marshall Islands sits at 6 feet above sea level, making them extremely vulnerable to rising seas, as well as storms and droughts that are increasing in frequency and severity. The capital, Majuro, floods more often during king tides, and Kili, an island inhabited by Bikinians who were removed from their atoll by the U.S. government to test nuclear weapons, is one of the hardest hit areas.
Recent studies show that damage sustained to fresh water supplies and to food crops due to salt water inundation pose a more eminent risk than recently believed. Some estimates show that many lands will be uninhabitable within a generation.
The Marshallese people have already been forced to relocate due to US nuclear testing. Though they struggle with the ongoing biological, ecological, and cultural effects of testing, Marshallese culture is resilient.
MEI supports efforts by the Marshallese government and NGOs to shore up coastlines and implement sustainable living practices, many of which were in place before the US Trust Territory period following World War II. Marshallese officials and community advocates have been at the forefront of global efforts to combat climate change, most notably at the United Nations' Climate Summit in 2014 and the Paris Climate Summit 2015, where the mantra "1.5 to stay alive" was heard around the globe. Today, RMI Climate Envoy, Ms. Tina Stege, leads RMI efforts as the Chair of the High Ambition Coalition, an organization first led by her uncle, the late-RMI For. Min. Tony DeBrum.
In December 2018, the RMI's delegation attended COP24 in Poland, where they added more supporters to the High Ambition Coalition. MEI's International Liaison, Tina Stege, who also currently serves as the RMI's Climate Envoy, speaks during the COP24 in photo above.
Since MEI was founded, the organization has worked to raise awareness about climate change. At Nuclear Remembrance Day 2014: Reflect. Honor. Educate., held at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, MEI was one of the first organizations to link nuclear testing and climate change. Today, MEI continues our efforts to raise awareness. MEI Project Specialist Benetick Kabua Maddison has presented on the devastating affects of climate change and its links to nuclear issues at conferences and on webinars around the world. MEI also partners with Reverse the Trend, an organization that amplifies the voices of youth across the world to engage in dialogue and activate leaders on climate and nuclear issues.
Our Shared Nuclear Legacy: Assessing Health Impacts & Inequality on the 75th Anniversary of the 1st Nuclear Test.
To mark the 75th anniversary (July 1, 1946 Pacific) of the first nuclear test on Bikini Atoll, MEI hosted a series of events to address the US-RMI nuclear legacy and assess core issues that have led to health inequities. Events address the impact of the linked climate crisis upon Marshallese bodies and lands, as well as the broader impact of climate change and the coronavirus pandemic upon other nuclear affected communities and communities of color.
Follow Tina Stege on Twitter here
Watch Prof. Michael Gerrard speak to climate change and nuclear testing as part of our shared legacy at NRD 2014.
Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, U.N. Climate Summit Poem, "Dear Matafele Peinem"
Majuro after a storm.
Photo courtesy of Phil Welch