The Republic of Kiribati is made up of three main island groups: the Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands and one isolated raised limestone island, Banaba (Ocean Island). The groups of islands contain 33 scattered atoll islands, dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometers in the central Pacific Ocean. The three main island groups stretch over 800 kilometers from north to south and over 3,210 kilometers from east to west.
2017 World Bank figures put the total population at 116,398 people, 43 percent of whom live in the capital of South Tarawa (Gilbert Islands).
The climate of Kiribati is hot and humid year around. This tropical climate is closely related to the temperature of the oceans surrounding the atolls and small islands. However, its seasonal rainfall is highly variable from year to year, mostly due to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
Kiribati is blessed with a vast ocean territory and great diversity of marine biodiversity, but is limited in its land area and terrestrial resources. The economy depends heavily on its rich marine resources for employment, income and subsistence living. However, the Kiribati is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change and sea level rise. The country is experiencing extensive erosion of coastal areas and even inland, which is displacing some people from the traditional house plots and subsistence farming areas they have occupied since the early 1900s. Many of the country’s islands are so narrow that there really is no place for displaced residents to go.
In addition to rising sea levels and continuous land erosion, the atolls of Kiribati are experiencing increased wave heights and frequency, which places increased pressure on the shoreline and seawalls.
Kiribati is not only susceptible to environmental risks, it is highly exposed to external economic shocks as well, particularly surges in food and fuel commodity prices, due to its limited revenue base and high dependency on imports. These circumstances cause it to be categorised by the United Nations as both a ‘Small Island Developing State’ and a ‘Least Developed Country’ at the same time. The public sector dominates the country’s economy, providing two-thirds of all formal sector employment and accounts for almost 50 percent of gross domestic product.