The stark realities of global warming and subsequent rising sea-levels are appearing to begin to have major effects on small Caribbean and Pacific Islands nations, with the latest stark call for assistance coming from the President of the Pacific Islands nation of Kiribati.

President Atone Tong recently said during a visit to New Zealand that Kiribati, as a nation, may no longer exist in 60 years and that Kiribati's population of 90,000 may have move elsewhere much earlier than within the 60-year timeframe in order to survive.

In order to see how serious the problem is really becoming we might have a closer look at Kiribati. The country is located in the Pacific Ocean with close neighbours being Samoa, French Polynesia and a little further away, Fiji.

Kiribati consists of three island groups with the biggest being the Gilberts. Some of the islands are uninhabited while others have small to medium-sized populations.Kiribati's main export earners are copra and tourism. The country has six airports of which the highest in altitude are Bonriki, a main airport, and Canton Island; both of these airports running at an altitude of 9 feet. I have seen all six airports and water levels appeared to be awfully close to the runways when I visited.

The main problem forKiribati is that, in some areas, the water supply is increasingly becoming unreliable and that erosion on some of the inhabited islands is such that the affected islands may soon have to be vacated as being no longer viable for human habitat.

Immediate solutions would be either desalination or fresh water shipments from other countries but longer-term solutions will have to be evacuation of the various populations of those islands. In the case ofKiribati, the long-term solution will be for the population to move elsewhere within the next 20 or 30 years to such places asNew Zealand,Australia and/or even Europe.

Indeed, while Atone Tong may have highlightedKiribati's problem in stark reality, his country is certainly not alone in facing major problems within the not too distant future.

In the Pacific, a number of countries are wholly or partly at risk and one only has to look at countries such asTonga, French Polynesia, Tuvalu, and the Cook Islands to see where things are going. Even parts of the Hawaiian Islands are at risk.

While the Pacific countries will be facing survival problems, on the other side of the world the situation is just as bad. In the Caribbean, theBahamas, the Virgin Islands and places such asJamaica are at risk, wholly or partly.

Some of the solutions may be the concentration of island populations to higher ground, desalination of local water supplies, the building of dykes around vulnerable areas or, as a last resort, emigration. Some of the solutions are technically viable depending on population size and location while for other islands or island groups, the only ultimate solution seems to be for the population to move off them.

The sad part is that, apart from being some of the world's most beautiful countries, the local inhabitants of these island states have been on their islands for many, many generations and having to move away from their homelands will be very sad indeed.

May we hope that technology and goodwill will prove us wrong.