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Rising seas, a hoax?

The December 26, 2004 tsunami strikes Male'

“A mean sea-level rise of two meters would suffice to virtually submerge the entire country of 1190 small islands, most of which barely rise over two meters above mean sea-level. That would be a death of a nation. With a mere one meter rise, a storm surge would be catastrophic, and possibly fatal, to the nation” President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom at the United Nations General Assembly on the issue of Environment and Development, New York, 19 October 1987.

For decades Maldivian leaders have been advocating for our very vulnerable environment and explaining the consequences of a global sea-level rise. All the way back in 1987 President Maumoon made efforts to bring this major issue to the attention of world leaders. Today President Nasheed continues to do so.

Many still are skeptical about the whole thing. Some regard this as a hoax while others just do not want to believe in a concept where “Maldives is sinking”. Well Maldives is “not” sinking!! It’s the seas that are rising to submerge the entire country.


The increase in Green house effect lead to rapid Global warming, as Earth gets warmer it causes large ice caps in both poles and glaciers around the world to melt down. All the melted water then ends up in the oceans. This causes the ocean levels to rise. When the ocean temperatures rise this results in something called thermal expansion. Now thermal expansion is a term describing the fact that warmer water takes up more space than the colder water. Therefore when the oceans warm up they expand and as the waters warm, the sea ice melts faster.

Still a hoax?

The Majuro Atoll in the Pacific Marshall Island is projected to lose 80% of its land with a 20 inch (0.5m) rise in sea-level. Many of the islands will simply disappear under the rising seas. A similar fate awaits other islands throughout the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, including many in the Maldives and French Polynesia.

Based on the data from tidal gauges and satellites it is easily understood and proven that the seas are indeed raising. Readings taken over extended periods of time, shows that on average, sea-level has increased by about 15 to 20 cm over the past century, with almost doubling rate of increase since 1993.

Cop 15 Synthesis Report showed that Greenland alone has been losing 179 gigatons per year since 2003. The most recent findings show that the waters are rising by about 3 mm per year, and that they are rising even faster than imagined. With more water adding into the oceans sea-levels are expected to keep on rising.

For island nations like us, Climate change and rising seas are not only an “environmental problem”. It is an issue of “social justice” – our right to preserve the cultural heritage, our way of living and our economical survival. Tourism industry will largely be affected our homes will be wiped off from maps and our children will become environmental refugees. Sea-level rise is expected to exacerbate inundation, storm surge, erosion and other coastal hazards, thus threatening vital infrastructure, settlements and facilities that support the livelihood of island communities.

Yes, today the affects of sea-level rise maybe witnessed by a small island in the South Pacific or in a northern atoll of the Maldives, which are the frontline islands on this global battle but it should be remembered that tomorrow it would be parts of Goa, Orissa, Copacabana, Florida and New York that will be subjected to the same fate.

“When a fisherman in an outer island of the Maldives ventures out into the sea at dawn, and watches the sun rising out of a deep azure sea, and observes spellbound; the magic of a resplendent morning in the tropics; and when our young boys joyously swim in our crystal clear lagoons, drinking in the invigorating sea breeze to their hearts, content; and when our people, both young and old, enjoy strolling on a moonlit beach, savoring nature at its very best, it is hardly possible that any of them would ever imagine that the beauty which is theirs today could be lost to others like them at a date in the not too distant future. Nor would any of our fishermen ever think that the sea which is bountiful source of his livelihood could, in a matter of decades, become his eternal grave. But that is precisely the prospect that we have to face today” ~ President Maumoon at the Small States Conference on Sea-Level Rise, Male’, 16th November 1989.
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