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Bikini nuclear refugees seek U.S. homes to flee rising seas

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This water came into Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands.
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Bikini Atoll islanders who were relocated before the U.S. began nuclear tests in the 1940s are now seeking refuge in the U.S., saying the rising seas and stronger storms brought on by climate change are making their new homes in the Marshall Islands uninhabitable.

Battering waves increasingly encroach on the airstrip on the island of Kili, where many of the Pacific islanders were resettled, while seawater is making the soil more saline, Marshallese Foreign Minister Tony de Brum told reporters in London. The republic has asked the U.S. to change the rules governing a fund set up in 1982 to help the islanders and their descendants resettle within the Pacific islands, he said.

“Now they want to be able to use that money to resettle in the United States,” de Brum said, pointing out that Marshall Islanders already have the right to settle in the U.S., so there are no citizenship hurdles. “The request that went in was on the basis of Kili being uninhabitable because of climate change.”

 

Pacific nations are increasingly beset by rising seas and stronger storms as the planet warms, and in the Marshall Islands, which lie mainly less than three meters (10 feet) above sea level, inhabitants have limited scope to retreat. Sea levels have risen 19 centimeters (7.5 inches) since 1901, and NASA scientists say a rise of at least a meter is probably “unavoidable” as warmer temperatures expand ocean water and ice sheets melt.

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