According the United Nations Report for Pacific Island Developing Countries (1992), the most significant environmental problems facing the nations in this area of the world are global warming and the rise of sea levels. Variations in the level of the sea may damage forests and agricultural areas and contaminate fresh water supplies with salt water. A rise in sea level by even two feet (60 cm) would leave Kiribati uninhabitable; in 1996, such a rise was forecast as a possibility by 2100. Kiribati, along with the other nations in the area, is vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic activity. The nation also has inadequate facilities for handling solid waste, which has been a major environmental concern since 1992, particularly in the larger population centers.
The environment in Kiribati has also been adversely affected by metals and chemicals from mining activities, and agricultural chemicals have polluted coastal waters. Phosphate mining was especially devastating, rendering the island of Banaba almost uninhabitable. The Banabans, who were forced to move to the Fijian island of Rabi, sued the owners of the mines and have won special compensation. A fund was also set up to compensate the people of Kiribati. Called the Phosphate Revenue Equalization Fund (PREF), in 1996 it amounted to A $200 million.
The lagoon of the south Tarawa atoll has been heavily polluted by solid waste disposal. Like other Pacific islands, Kiribati is sensitive to the dangers of pollution and radiation from weapons tests and nuclear waste disposal. The UN Report describes the wildlife in these areas as "among the most critically threatened in the world." Endangered or extinct species include the green sea turtle and mukojima bonin honeyeater.
Kiribati is a party to the Biodiversity, Endangered Species, Marine Dumping, and the Ozone Layer Protection international agreements.