The small Pacific Island nation of the Marshall Islands is demanding that the US take decisive action on climate change in the next 12 months, fearing that without policy changes it will be wiped off the map entirely. With the islands standing at only two meters above sea level, global warming is already having a devastating effect on its 55,000 residents.

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Speaking to reporters today in Sydney, Australia, Marshall Islands’ state official Tony de Brum insisted that US Secretary of State John Kerry attend the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum in September. He warned the nation would see Kerry’s absence as “a slap in the face”—and when you hear about the situation on the Islands, it’s easy to understand why.

Not only have residents been forced to watch parts of their nation slowly disappear into the ocean, but they’re also beginning to suffer from severe droughts. After seven months of unusually dry weather, the Marshall’s government has been forced to ferry food and drinking water to 13 different outer island communities to make up for shortages.

The drought has also been affecting coconut harvests, threatening the main export that underpins the nation’s economy. At this rate, the country may be unable to support itself long before rising sea levels have a chance to swallow up the land.

At today’s press conference, De Brum stressed, “We do not have scientists measuring this that and the other, we have experienced first-hand the effects of climate change… It is not something that is down the road or at the turn of the century.” It’s a stark reminder of the fact that larger nations like the US and Australia are going to have to start planning on how to accommodate climate refugees sooner rather than later.

Via The Raw Story

Lead Image via Tatiana Gerus/Flickr