When people migrated, most often to the United States, 62% felt that a return to their islands might no longer be possible in the future due to environmental factors, underscores how climate change and the real and perceived risks associated with it influence long-term migration and residence decisions. Interviewees also reported a reduction in firewood and food stocks due to drought and salinity falls that damaged the soil and killed trees. This is of particular concern to the outer islands, which are less dependent on imported resources. Instead, from 1946 to 1958, the United States tested 67 nuclear weapons on bikini and Enewetak atolls, forcing these and other communities to evacuate their homes. Thousands of Marshallese remain in exile until today, mostly on tiny islands that are highly exposed to climate change, or in the United States. Others have returned to their atolls, where radioactive fallout continues to pollute the country. All those who are exposed to radiation are always exposed to long-term health risks. For years, the United States and other industrialized countries have failed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions quickly enough to meet the Paris climate agreement`s goals of avoiding catastrophic warming. Nor have they made their promises to help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change. Meanwhile, the United States has refused to allocate more than $2 billion by an independent nuclear debt tribunal to the Marshall Islands for damage caused by nuclear tests.
According to Kees van der Geest, “the narrative of `islands in decline`, which often dominates the coverage of small island states, is misleading because the islands become uninhabitable because of salinity penetration long before they disappear underwater. Droughts and heat waves are also described as immediate threats. In addition, the narrative of the islands in decline creates a sense of despair and abandonment, while the islanders want a much greater adaptation effort. Many of them said they did not want to leave their homeland and their roots. To control the floods, driven by rising seas, the nation should regain and increase the land and consolidate its population in urban centres.