World leaders might be preparing to thrash out a post-Kyoto agreement on global warming, but in the interim, the phenomenon continues to have a significant impact on the earth’s oceans. The Maldives, an archipelago of roughly 1200 coral islands off the southwestern coast of India, are an example of a land mass that could soon be engulfed by rising sea levels resulting from melting polar ice-caps.
The sea currently rises around one centimeter every year, but that is set to increase as global warming gathers pace in the years to come. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has forecast a rise in sea levels of at least 7.1 inches (18 cm) by the end of the century. Every centimeter is critical: only one in five of the 1200 islands are higher than one meter above sea level. The highest point on any of the islands is two meters and 40 centimeters.
But the recently elected president, Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed, a former political prisoner, has other plans to salvage the life of the 360,000 people on the Maldives.
“We will invest in land,” Nasheed said. “We do not want to end up in refugee tents if the worst happens.”
Nasheed wants to relocate his entire nation to new lands such as those owned by Sri Lanka and India, or Australia. He has also announced that his country aims to be the world’s first completely carbon neutral country by switching to renewable energies.
But Nasheed realizes that ultimately the fate of his sinking people lies with more powerful leaders of developed nations who will take the call on global warming. Perhaps this is why he intends to seek advice from the Queen of England, as head of the Commonwealth, on a possible way out of the crisis.