Climate change in the Maldives

Climate change is a major issue for the Maldives. As an archipelago of low-lying islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean, the existence of the Maldives is severely threatened by sea level rise. By 2050, 80% of the country could become uninhabitable due to global warming.[1] According to the World Bank, with "future sea levels projected to increase in the range of 10 to 100 centimeters by the year 2100, the entire country could be submerged".[2] The Maldives is striving to adapt to climate change, and Maldivian authorities have been prominent in international political advocacy to implement climate change mitigation.

The Maldives government have adapted infrastructure in capital city Malé to the threats of climate change, including beginning to build a wall around the city.

Sea level rise edit

Several islands of the Maldives are threatened by sea level rise.

In 1988, Maldivian authorities believed that rising seas could already entirely cover the nation within the next 30 years, stating that "an estimated rise of 20 to 30 centimetres in the next 20 to 40 years [would] be 'catastrophic'".[3] By 2021, 90% of islands in the Maldives experienced severe erosion, 97% of the country no longer had fresh groundwater, and more than 50% of the national budget was being spent on efforts to adapt to the effects of climate change. The country lost one of its primary natural defenses in a 2016 bleaching event that affected about 60% of its coral reefs.[1]

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report predicted the upper limit of the sea level rises will be 59 centimetres (23 in) by 2100, which means that most of the Maldives' 200 inhabited islands may need to be abandoned.[4] According to researchers from the University of Southampton, the Maldives are the third most endangered island nation due to flooding from climate change as a percentage of population.[5]

In 2020, a three-year study at the University of Plymouth which looked at the Maldives and the Marshall Islands, found that tides move sediment to create a higher elevation, a morphological response that could help low-lying islands adjust to sea level rise and keep the islands habitable. The research also reported that sea walls were compromising the islands’ ability to adjust to rising sea levels and that island drowning is an inevitable outcome for islands with coastal structures like sea walls.[6] Hideki Kanamaru, natural resources officer with the Food and Agriculture Organization in Asia-Pacific, said the study provided a "new perspective" on how island nations could tackle the challenge of sea-level rise, and that even if islands can adapt naturally to higher seas by raising their own crests, humans still needed to double down on global warming and protection for island populations.[7]

Effects on people edit

Most people in the Maldives live on small, flat, densely populated atolls that are threatened by violent storms or even the slightest sea level rise. The capital Malé is especially threatened because it is on a small, flat, extremely densely populated atoll that is surrounded by sea walls, and other barriers to protect against storms. This means the Malé atoll cannot change shape in response to rising sea levels and is increasingly reliant on expensive engineering solutions.[8]

Climate change will also have significant implications for tourism in the Maldives.[9]

Effects on the environment edit

Coral reef in Baa Atoll.

The Maldives contains 3% of the world's coral reefs,[10] which are impacted by climate change.[11] The 2016 global coral bleaching event greatly impacted coral reefs across the Maldives, with such events expected to become more frequent and severe due to climate change.[10][12]

Mitigation and adaptation edit

Mitigation edit

In 2009, President Mohamed Nasheed announced a plan to make the country carbon neutral and pursue a renewable energy transition in the following decade.[13] Maldives planned to eliminate or offset all of its greenhouse gas emissions. At the 2009 International Climate Talks, Nasheed explained that:

For us swearing off fossil fuels is not only the right thing to do, but it is also in our economic self-interest... Pioneering countries will free themselves from the unpredictable price of foreign oil; they will capitalise on the new green economy of the future, and they will enhance their moral standing giving them greater political influence on the world stage.[14]

In 2017, the government of Abdulla Yameen changed the policy, instead aiming to be a low carbon country and prioritising development. Environment minister Thoriq Ibrahim said "We are going nowhere. The dream [of making the Maldives carbon neutral] is over. We are looking to be a low-carbon country."[15]

Adaptation edit

Malé, Maldives' capital, is threatened by climate change.

To defend against climate change and the resulting sea level rise, the national government of the Maldives has prepared a comprehensive National Adaptation Programme of Action, that attempts to critically consider and alleviate many of the serious threats the Maldives faces.[16] The Maldives has implemented measures to combat sea level rise, including a wall around the capital Malé[17] and refurnishing local infrastructure, particularly ports.[18] The country began a large-scale land reclamation project in Hulhumalé in the late 1990s, partly in preparation for relocation from elsewhere in the country.[1] A Dutch company has proposed building 5000 floating homes near Malé.[19]

In 2008, Nasheed announced plans to look into purchasing new land in India, Sri Lanka, and Australia because of his concerns about global warming, and the possibility of much of the islands being inundated by the rising sea. The purchase of land will be made from a fund generated by tourism. The president explained his intentions: "We do not want to leave the Maldives, but we also do not want to be climate refugees living in tents for decades".[20]

International cooperation edit

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed speaks at the launch of the Climate Vulnerability Monitor in 2010.

Advocacy for climate change mitigation is a key component of the Maldives' foreign policy.[21] Concerns over sea level rise were expressed by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom at the 1997 United Nations General Assembly.[22] President Mohamed Nasheed said in 2012 that "If carbon emissions continue at the rate they are climbing today, my country will be under water in seven years."[23] He called for more climate change mitigation action while on the American television shows The Daily Show[24] and the Late Show with David Letterman,[23] and hosted "the world's first underwater cabinet meeting" in 2009 to raise awareness of the threats posed by climate change.[25][26][27]

Former President of the Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said in 2016 "to the three hundred thousand inhabitants of the Maldives none of these threats compare, in magnitude and likelihood, to global climate change and consequent sea level rise."[16] Former environment minister for the Maldives, Mohamed Aslam, said "If Maldives can do it, you can do it. It's important to us not just to talk but to lead by example".[8]

Society and climate change edit

Public opinion edit

A 2017 study of Maldivians' public opinion on climate change found that "more than 50% of respondents perceive future sea-level rise to be a serious challenge at the national level and they accept that migration from islands to other countries might be a potential option", although religious and cultural factors played a role.[28]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "Facing dire sea level rise threat, Maldives turns to climate change solutions to survive". ABC News. Retrieved 24 July 2022.
  2. ^ "Climate Change in the Maldives!". World Bank. Archived from the original on 9 June 2016. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  3. ^ "Threat to islands". The Canberra Times. No. 19348, Vol. 63. Agence France-Presse. 26 September 1988. p. 6. Retrieved 15 November 2021. A gradual rise in average sea level is threatening to completely cover this Indian Ocean nation of 1196 small islands within the next 30 years, according to authorities. The Environmental Affairs Director, Mr Hussein Shihab, said an estimated rise of 20 to 30 centimetres in the next 20 to 40 years could be "catastrophic"
  4. ^ "Where climate change threatens survival". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 January 2012. Archived from the original on 14 January 2021. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  5. ^ Stephen, Marcus (14 November 2011). "A sinking feeling: Why is the president of the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru so concerned about climate change?". The New York Times Upfront. Archived from the original on 9 February 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2015. Most Endangered Island nations at highest risk for flooding due to climate change 3 Maldives (Indian Ocean)
  6. ^ "Physical impacts of climate change on coral reef islands". University of Plymouth. Retrieved 11 March 2023.
  7. ^ Michael Taylor, Small islands may not disappear under rising seas, researchers find Archived 14 January 2021 at the Wayback Machine at, accessed 29 June 2020
  8. ^ a b Warne, Kennedy (13 February 2015). "Will Pacific Island Nations Disappear as Seas Rise? Maybe Not". National Geographic. Archived from the original on 18 February 2021. Retrieved 2 August 2022.
  9. ^ Carlsen, Jack; Butler, Richard (2011). "The Risk of Climate Change for Tourism in the Maldives". Island Tourism: Sustainable Perspectives. CABI. ISBN 978-1-84593-679-2.
  10. ^ a b "Maldives coral reefs under stress from climate change: research survey reveals over 60% of corals bleached". IUCN. 8 August 2016. Retrieved 16 August 2022.
  11. ^ Udhma, Fathmath (29 June 2022). "Protecting 30% of the global ocean and utilising 100% of the ocean sustainably is important: Minister Shauna". Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  12. ^ "More than 60% of Maldives' coral reefs hit by bleaching". the Guardian. 8 August 2016. Retrieved 16 August 2022.
  13. ^ "Carbon-neutral goal for Maldives". 15 March 2009. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  14. ^ "Climate Change Gridlock: Where Do We Go From Here? (Part 1)". Making Contact. National Radio Project. 28 June 2011. Archived from the original on 14 January 2021. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  15. ^ "'We need development': Maldives switches focus from climate threat to mass tourism". the Guardian. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  16. ^ a b "National Adaptation Programme of Action." Republic of Maldives. 21 February 2016. Accessed 2 August 2022.
  17. ^ Hamilton, Jon (8 January 2008). "Maldives Builds Barriers to Global Warming". NPR. Retrieved 26 November 2020.
  18. ^ chaamjamal (14 May 2020). "THE SINKING MALDIVES SOAP OPERA OF CLIMATE SCIENCE". Thongchai Thailand. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  19. ^ "The Maldives is being swallowed by the sea. Can it adapt?". Environment. 20 January 2022. Archived from the original on 20 January 2022. Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  20. ^ Ramesh, Randeep (10 November 2008). "Paradise almost lost: Maldives seek to buy a new homeland". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 14 January 2021. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  21. ^ Jaschik, Kevin (1 March 2014). "Small states and international politics: Climate change, the Maldives and Tuvalu". International Politics. 51 (2): 272–293. doi:10.1057/ip.2014.5. ISSN 1740-3898. S2CID 145290890.
  22. ^ Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. "Address by his Excellency Mr. Maumoon Abdul Gahoom, President of the Republic of Maldives, at the nineteenth special session of the United Nations General Assembly for the purpose of an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of agenda, 21 – 24 June 1997". Archived from the original on 13 June 2006. Retrieved 6 January 2006.
  23. ^ a b Catoe, Linda. "Endangered island nations call for global action on climate change". The Guilfordian. Archived from the original on 14 January 2021. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  24. ^ "Exclusive – Mohamed Nasheed Extended Interview Pt. 2". The Daily Show. Comedy Central. 2 April 2012. Archived from the original on 14 January 2021. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  25. ^ Lang, Olivia (17 October 2009). "Maldives leader in climate change stunt". BBC News. Archived from the original on 1 July 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
  26. ^ "Maldives cabinet makes a splash". BBC News. 17 October 2009. Archived from the original on 14 January 2021. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  27. ^ "Maldives government holds underwater cabinet meeting". The Daily Telegraph. 17 October 2009. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  28. ^ Stojanov, Robert; Duží, Barbora; Kelman, Ilan; Němec, Daniel; Procházka, David (December 2017). "Local perceptions of climate change impacts and migration patterns in Malé, Maldives". The Geographical Journal. 183 (4): 370–385. doi:10.1111/geoj.12177.

External links edit