A Country That Will Drown If Sea Levels Rise

December 10, 2009

Maldives Underwater Cabinet Meeting
Maldives Underwater Cabinet Meeting, http://www.flickr.com/photos/350org/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Copenhagen Climate Change conference opened this week with an urgent call to action on the rapidly warming temperatures and the associated human costs that come from it.  And, no country in the world will be more affected than the small nation of Maldives.  The country is a series of tiny atolls that rise no more than a few feet above sea level.  The fear is that as sea levels rise, the entire country of Maldives will simply be swamped and disappear.  All 309,000 residents of the country will have to move—everyone from the President to the poorest resident.  The newly elected President of the Maldives and his cabinet held a cabinet meeting underwater in full scuba gear to highlight their country’s fate.

The Divehi people of Maldives have lived for 3,000 years on these islands, but they are now being threatened with extinction.  The atoll of Maduvari, home to 2,000 people, is an example of this.  The atoll has noticeably shrunk and will have to be abandoned in 20 years.  Those residents will be resettled in other atolls in the Maldives.  But, what will happen when all of Maldives’ atolls are gone and where will they go?

The country is taking radical steps to deal with the onslaught caused by other country’s use of fossil fuels.  Maldives will be first country in the world to be entirely carbon neutral.  They are trying to use some of the dead coral reefs that surround the atolls to literally raise the height of some of the islands.  And, they are working to reclaim land similar to the way in which Holland has done.  But, these are short term solutions.  Long term, Maldives must convince countries much larger than them that it is imperative that action be taking to end the global rise in temperatures.

Here is a video piece by the BBC World Service that highlights the plight of Maldivians and their fight against what might be a losing battle.