Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Small Island Nations Blast Climate Change Inaction

In December the nations of the world will gather in Copenhagen for the UN Climate Change Conference to hammer out a new agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions and hopefully reduce the impact of global warming. But already the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is saying that any agreement in Copenhagen won't be enough to keep the sea from swallowing their native lands.

This week at a pre-Copenhagen meeting in Bangkok, AOSIS was pushing for a commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade, rather than the 2C goal likely to be the outcome of the Copenhagen agreement. Their plea fell on deaf ears. "It's really setting up Copenhagen for failure or an inadequate result," said Leon Charles, the chairman of the AOSIS negotiating team. Two degrees, AOSIS argues, won't be enough to save their island nations.

The average elevation on many of the islands of members of AOSIS is less than two meters (a little over six feet for those of you not metrically inclined), so even a small rise in sea levels would have a devastating effect on the AOSIS nations. Already one AOSIS member, The Maldives, has set up a Sovereign Wealth Fund to buy a new homeland for the nation's 350,000 residents the day their Indian Ocean nation becomes uninhabitable. But for other AOSIS members, buying a new homeland is not an option either financially or culturally - many of the island peoples feel a deep bond to their land, the 12,000 Tuvaluan (natives of the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu) say they would cease to be “Tuvaluan” if forced to leave their ancestral home.

Meanwhile, in an effort to highlight the coming effects of rising sea levels, President Mohammed Nasheed of The Maldives is convening the October 17th meeting of his Cabinet 20 feet underwater. The point of the meeting will be to sign a decree calling on all nations to slash carbon emissions ahead of the Copenhagen meetings in December.

A dramatic stunt? Sure it is, but the AOSIS would argue that dramatic action is needed if they have any hope of saving their homelands.
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