You’ll see with your own eyes

by Bryan Walker on July 11, 2012

An interesting piece in the Huffington Post recently reported Mohamed Nasheed, former President of the Maldives, warning the United States: “You can’t pick and choose on science.” The Maldives is one of the most threatened nations in the world from the sea level rise accompanying global warming. While he was President, Nasheed worked to make the country carbon-neutral, as reported on Hot Topic a couple of years ago. That won’t save the Maldives, of course, but it will at least show willing to do what other much larger nations must do to keep climate change within manageable limits. With a population of 300,000-plus, he said his country needs to complete around 200 projects to reach that goal, a process he believes would take about 10 years.

He acknowledges the United States has a bigger challenge, but they need to face up to it.

“It’s going to be difficult for the U.S. to be a world leader unless they themselves embrace it.”

The population of the Maldives see all too clearly the effects of climate change, but Nasheed acknowledges that Americans may need the evidence of their own eyes. They’ll be getting it:

“You will probably see many aberrations in climate patterns. You’ll have to see that and you’ll have to experience that for you to take this thing seriously.”

The weather extremes America has been experiencing in recent times look like the kind of aberrations in climate patterns that Nasheed foresees and, if the connection with climate change is allowed to be considered, may help mobilise public opinion in favour of mitigation measures.  But America will also not escape drastic effects from sea level rise in due course.  Climate Central, which has done its own analysis of the number of Americans at elevated risk of coastal flood by 2030, drew attention recently to an OECD environmental working paper which looks at the risks from a moderate estimate of sea level rise by the 2070s in major port cities around the world.  It’s a lengthy and carefully estimated report, allowing not only for a higher sea level but also for the damage which comes from strong winds and storm surges, a greater risk in some parts of the world than others.  Bloomberg has provided a slide show with a handy synopsis of the report’s findings for the top 20 of the cities covered in the report. Four of those 20 cities are in the US and one of them, Miami, tops the list for the costs of damage.

But the effects of sea level rise on America are by no means confined to port cities. Peter Sinclair has put together this telling video for The Yale Forum.

One doesn’t wish sea level rise on America any more than on any other country in the world. However it is one of the countries most responsible for the continuing high level of greenhouse gas emissions and it is one of the countries best placed to urgently follow the path of mitigation. Yet at the political level Americans are refusing to take that course. We can only hope that the mounting evidence of the serious dangers climate change is going to mean for their own country will overwhelm the denial and delay and indifference which currently prevent the major policy changes needed to enable the switch away from a fossil fuel economy.

Let’s give the last word to Nasheed.

“What happens to the Maldives today is going to happen to everyone else tomorrow…You must understand that.”

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

MarianP July 14, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Again we’re sick and tired of the darn right lies passed off as facts on the Maldives.

The Maldives are doing fine. The President darn right lies as he was told to lie by the UN and that goes for some of the Pacific Island nations in the same boat.

Despite the over exaggeration of sea level rises. The Maldives are great destroyers of their own environment and coral reefs while blaming the evil West for all their woes.

The building boom in new hotels and airports in the Maldives is proof enough what a load of fraud it is. Must be expecting plenty of tourists in the coming years. Let alone the sea level measurements showuing sea levels are stable around the Maldives again that gets in the way of the facts.

Dappledwater July 14, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Marian – do watch the video above. The great polar ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are melting/disintegrating at an accelerating rate. This has been measured by GPS, satellite altimetry and the GRACE gravity satellites. And it’s rather bleedingly obvious to the naked eye – check out James Balog’s TED talk for instance.

Greenland and Antarctica, between them, contain the equivalent of around 65-70 metres of global sea level rise. The Maldives are typically only metres above present sea level. Look at the capital Male for example.

Can you now understand how accelerating global ice loss is a concern for the Maldives?

Thomas July 14, 2012 at 7:02 pm

MarianP: Stop posting assertions of that kind without references!
Put up with clear evidence the the Maldives and other low lying ocean nations are not going to be the first to be inundated by the oceans in a warming world or shut up!

Rob Taylor July 15, 2012 at 5:48 am

[Snipped: tone it down, please, Rob. GR]… are you AndyS in drag?

Gosman July 16, 2012 at 8:48 am

The real question is not if the Maldives will be inundated at some stage in the future (highly likely) but whether the country is economically viable at all. Tourism is Maldives’ largest economic activity. It accounts for 28% of GDP and more than 60% of foreign exchange receipts. I’d hazard a guess that the majority of those Tourists come in via air travel. If the Maldives wants the World to have a less carbon intensive economy it will have to accept less tourists. This will have a flow on effect on the economy and most likely mean the country will no longer be economically viable. So even if we were able to stop the negative impact of climate change on the Maqldives the country is probably doomed anyway.

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