Officials of 160 countries would soon meet in Bonn, Germany, to negotiate cutbacks in the emissions of heat trapping gases linked to global warming. Although most experts agree that these gases may cause a rise in sea levels, there is a difference of opinion about the scale and severity of destruction. Kiribati (pronounced Kih-rih-bus) is one of the many Pacific island nations threatened by rising seas, which is attributed to global warming.

The 75,000 islanders have recently been encountering menacing tides that swallowed up scores of homes in the island. The flooding has led them to believe that global warming could cause the seas to rise enough to obliterate small islands lying in the Pacific Ocean.

"The only resource we have is water," said Philip Muller, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, another nation that is being threatened by rising seas. "Our livelihood is the sea. Now all of a sudden, it's not a friend. It's threatening our existence. " Giff Johnson, editor of a Marshall Islands newspaper, said, "These aren't storms, they're surges. It's nice weather, and all of a sudden water is pouring into your living room. It's very clear that something is happening in the Pacific, and these islands are feeling it."

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