Man Seeks 'Climate Change Asylum' in New Zealand

Tarawa atoll, capital of the vast archipelago nation of Kiribati, pictured Sept. 11, 2001. (Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images)

A man from the island nation of Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean is asking New Zealand to grant him asylum on the basis that climate change is threatening to swallow his homeland whole.

Ioane Teitiota appealed to New Zealand's Immigration and Protection Tribunal to ask for asylum for himself and his family. He has been living in New Zealand for years but his visa recently expired, according to documents made public by the Tribunal.

Teitiota and his attorney have asked the government to overturn a previous ruling denying his request for asylum, explaining that rising sea levels threatened to ruin the environment on Kiribati and make it unlivable. He said that a lack of potable water, edible flora and fauna, and tuna populations were all endangered by the changing environment.

The island nation has built sea walls to try and protect its residents and using land on Fiji in order to be able to grow food, according to the documents, but Teitiota was not convinced the preventative measures would be sufficient.

The High Court of New Zealand is expected to rule on Teitiota's appeal in coming weeks, according to the BBC.