NZ seen as climate refuge - paper

American computer security specialist Adam Fier has sold his home, got rid of his car and pulled his twin six-year-old girls out of primary school to move to New Zealand.

He and his wife have never visited the country before, and they have no family or professional connections here, but Mr Fier told the Washington Post he was making the move because of his long-term concerns about the effects of global warming.

The newspaper used the family as a case study of "ecomigrants" to highlight efforts by Kiribati president Anote Tong to move all 100,000 of the people on the Pacific atolls to a new homeland as oceans rise.

Fier, 38, who used to work at NASA, said he thought hard about the risks of global climate change.

Moving to a new country would be difficult but he thought that the dangers of staying in the United States were worse, so he drew up a list of countries and studied how they might fare over the next century.

He examined their environmental policies, access to natural resources and vulnerability to conflict, and chose New Zealand. Its tropical, subtropical, temperate and arctic zones also offer a variety of "bioenvironments" as a hedge against the vagaries of climate change.

"I am not going to predict how the climate might change and how it might affect New Zealand," Mr Fier said.

"But quite honestly, I feel in 100 years, one of my daughters is still going to be alive and this planet is going to be a mess. If I didn't have two daughters, I would not be doing this."

He argued if disasters such as Hurricane Katrina - which drowned New Orleans - become the norm in a world afflicted by overpopulation and environmental degradation, it was rational to take action to avoid the worst effects.

New Zealand's Department of Labour said nearly half of all skilled migrants cite its "climate or the clean, green environment to be a main reason" for moving here.

And New Zealand's ambassador to the US Roy Ferguson told the newspaper that although the nation produced only one-fifth of 1 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, it was ramping up production of energy from renewable sources.

The newspaper noted that in contrast to the Fier family, most "ecomigrants" are poor and desperate, including over four million people driven out of the lowlands in the Philippines by deforestation, and up to 17 million who have fled floods in Bangladesh.

It noted many citizens of Kiribati were attempting to migrate to New Zealand, and President Tong has said he was arming his people with trade skills sought in other countries.

"But as the Fier family shows, ecomigration is not just the province of the desperate - or a phenomenon that involves only people in faraway lands" the newspaper said.

"The guy who moves from here (the US) to New Zealand is no different than the guy who moves from the lowland in the Philippines to the highland, or from El Salvador to Honduras," Indiana University political economist Rafael Reuveny said.

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