Tuvalu may be completely submerged by the end of the century. Mario Tama/Getty Images
- Tuvalu wants to replicate itself in the metaverse before rising sea levels wipe it off the map.
- Climate change poses an existential threat to Tuvalu, which is forecast to be submerged by 2100.
- “It appears we have no choice but to become the world’s first digital nation,” said Simon Kofe.
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Tuvalu plans to become the first country to create a complete replica of itself in the metaverse as rising sea levels threaten to completely submerge the tiny island nation.
Simon Kofe, Tuvalu’s foreign affairs minister, announced the project in a virtual address to world leaders at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.
“The tragedy of this outcome cannot be overstated. But because the world has not acted, we must,” he said.
“Our land, our ocean, our culture are the most precious assets of our people and to keep them safe from harm, no matter what happens in the physical world, we will move them to the cloud.” Kofe also issued a warning to other nations: “Tuvalu could be the first country in the world to exist solely in cyberspace. But if global warming continues unchecked, it won’t be the last.”
Situated about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, Tuvalu is composed of three reef islands and six coral atolls. It’s home to around 12,000 people, and has a total land area of just 10 square miles.
For Tuvalu, climate change poses an existential threat. The UN has classified the low-lying island nation as “extremely vulnerable” to rising global temperatures, and experts predict that it could be fully submerged by 2100, per Chatham House.
The first step of Tuvalu’s digitization project is a recreation of Teafualiku Islet – the country’s smallest island, and the first part of the country that’s expected to be lost to rising sea levels.
In his address to COP27, which was delivered against the backdrop of a digital replica of Teafualiku, Kofe said: “Islets like this one won’t survive rapid temperature increases, rising sea levels, and drought, so we’ll recreate them virtually. Piece by piece we’ll preserve our country, provide solace to our people, and remind our children and our grandchildren what our home once was.”
Kofe also implored other nations to take serious action on climate change to help Tuvalu avoid the “worst-case scenario”. He told delegates: “Only concerted global effort can ensure that Tuvalu does not move permanently online and disappear forever from the physical plane.”
This isn’t the first time Kofe has attracted global attention on behalf of Tuvalu. At the COP26 climate summit last year, he grabbed headlines by addressing the conference while standing knee-deep in the sea to underline Tuvalu’s vulnerability to climate change.