Maldives – the first nation to disappear because of global warming ?

The BBC News service is reporting that the Maldives may disappear as a nation due to global warming.

Sea rise there is just under 1cm a year and: "Since 80% of its 1,200 islands are no more than 1m above sea level, within 100 years the Maldives could become uninhabitable".

The Maldives was the first country to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol and has since written to President Bush in an attempt to get the US to sign up (as they’re a major source of greenhouse gases), but the US hasn’t even bothered to reply.

What makes this more disturbing is growing evidence (as reported in New Scientist magazine of 24th July) that the effects of clouds have probably been underestimated in global warming as a feedback mechanism. The latest moves by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to weed out poor models that fail to predict climate change seems to be removing those that predict lower increases in temperature and do not take good account of cloud change.

The remaining models which do take better account of clouds are generally predicting higher temperatures, some predicting up to a 10C rise in global temperature for a doubling in carbon dioxide, rather than the currently accepted 3C rise. Now this can only make the future even more bleak for the Maldives and other low lying countries.

The BBC report doesn’t address the rather obvious question of what happens to the population of a country that disappears under the waves, through no fault of their own. Do the major polluters have a moral responsibility to take them in, and/or to make reparations ?

5 thoughts on “Maldives – the first nation to disappear because of global warming ?

  1. Great article and important discussion too.

    I hope the Bush Government in the US in its misuse of power to ignore little people will not sit too calmly in it’s ivory towers for too long. Again and again people in the real world take the time to care about small voices and in being vocal embarass this so called ‘super power’ with all we have; words.

    It shames me as an Australian that our present Howard government greases up to the pompous arrogance of so called Super Power’s on environmental matters, countries clearly not ‘super’ enough to demonstrate much respect, ethics or humanity toward what itso often treats as ‘insignificant populations’.

    …. Donna Williams

  2. Uh… since the most authoritative (probably the only) multi-year study of sea levels in the Maldives (by Nils-Axel Morner’s institute in Sweden) has found that the sea levels in the Maldives are NOT rising — indeed they have dropped 30 cm since 1970 — you might be a tad premature in kissing these islands goodby. (Of course, one might wonder how they managed to survive the 300 foot rise in the last 11000 years. Coral growth comes to mind.)

    But, what the heck! Why let mere facts interfere with some Bushitler bashing! What fun!

    As a news agency, you people are pathetic.

  3. Hi Bob,

    Sadly it appears that Axel Morner’s position doesn’t agree with measurements reported in 2002 in Marine Geodesy by Tariq Masood Ali Khan et. al where they said:

    The results show that Maldives coastal sea level is rising in the same way (rising trend) as the global sea level. The mean tidal level at Male has shown an increasing trend of about 4.1 mm/year.Similarly at Gan, near the equator,it has registered a positive trend of about 3.9 mm/year.

    Also, I would be concerned about the reliability of a person who in 2004 misrepresented himself to the Russian Academy of Science as “President of the Commission on Sea Level Change of INQUA” when he had left that position in 2003. As the letter to the Academy from INQUA said:

    I am writing to inform you that Dr. Mörner has misrepresented his position with INQUA. Dr. Mörner was President of the Commission on Sea Level Change until July 2003, but the commission was terminated at that time during a reorganization of the commission structure of INQUA. Dr. Mörner currently has no formal position in INQUA, and I am distressed that he continues to represent himself in his former capacity. Further, INQUA, which is an umbrella organization for hundreds of researchers knowledgeable about past climate, does not subscribe to Mörner’s position on climate change. Nearly all of these researchers agree that humans are modifying Earth’s climate, a position diametrically opposed to Dr. Mörner’s point of view.

    So it would appear that there are an awful lot of scientists doing the same sort of work who disagree with him, so the balance of probabilities are that he is wrong.

    I would also worry about the fact that the 2001 IPCC report underestimated sea level rise, actual measurements show that the real rise has been at the very top end of their worst-case prediction at 3.3 millimetres per year between 1993 and 2006. The range the IPCC thought was most probable was less than 2mm per year.

    But, there is a way to match the actual rise to the IPCC’s best guess – as New Scientist reported:

    However, the actual sea level rise does match the upper limit of the IPCC’s predictions, if the significant uncertainty about the behaviour of land ice is taken into account. This uncertainty stems from the fact that the likely contribution of the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets to sea-level rises is still largely unknown.

    In other words, if you allow for the IPCC to include a much larger contribution into their model from water inflow from land ice then you end up with their best guess to just about include the actual result, at the very top of the scale..

  4. Chris: Not sure if my email would arrive, so I’m repeating it in this post:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the information about Morners “resume enhancement” problems — I was not aware of them. It would seem, however, that these problems do not directly address the data from his study, much of which could be verified (or disproved) directly — for instance, his claim that some of the commonly used fishing boat routes over sunken reefs in the 1970s are no longer passable due to dropping sea levels.

    I have a problem with the unexamined assumption that these islands are static. There is no evidence to support this. Are we to assume that, after over 100 m of sea level rise in the last 12,000 years or so, (~8mm/year average) that, just now, these islands are about to disappear? Do you think that they were 100 m high pillars of dead coral 12,000 years ago? I remind you that some coral islands in the Pacific have been established to be over 300,000,000 years old. Somehow they have survived sea level changes many times what we are looking at now.

    Rather, the reason that most coral islands (as well as coastal barrier islands) are about 2-3 m above sea level is that the forces of growth and erosion that create them reach equilibrium at that level.

    Far more serious than sea level changes is Human interference with this equilibrium, as is being demonstrated on Male now — the coral growth is being stunted by both polluted run-off from the city and the disruption of the natural wave action by the concrete erosion barriers placed offshore. Rather than hoping for a big payoff from the industrialized world, the government would be better advised to take action to either restore the natural balance or make plans to replace it with artificial means. Neither course is made more possible by indulging in environmental fantasies. Maldivians might take a look at Belize’s policies with regard to their islands: They have determined what allows the islands to grow and resist erosion (Mangrove thickets, mostly) and have taken steps to protect them.

    The tragedy is that there are all too many “environmentalists” who are more interested in promoting their thinly-veiled political agendas than addressing actual problems – and these folks will not hesitate to use the Maldivians as sacrificial goats.

    Bob Cormack

  5. It was not my understanding that Dr Morner claimed to be president of a commision that no longer existed. He usually says, correctly, that he was formerly president of the Commission on Sea-Level Change.

    I wonder if there could have been a mix-up in Russia because of language differences. Personally, I would be will to give Dr Morner the benefit of the doubt.

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