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Saturday, October 17, 2009

From underwater, Maldives sends warning on climate change

With fish as witnesses, the president of Maldives and his Cabinet wore scuba gear and used hand signals Saturday at an underwater meeting to highlight the threat climate change poses to the archipelago nation.
The Maldives declaration will be presented at a U.N. summit on climate change in December.
The Maldives declaration will be presented at a U.N. summit on climate change in December.
The meeting, chaired by President Mohamed Nasheed, took place around a table about 16 feet (5 meters) underwater, according to the president's Web site. Bubbles ascended from the face masks the president and the Cabinet wore, and fish swam around them.
At the meeting, the Cabinet signed a declaration calling for global cuts in carbon emissions that will be presented before a U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December.
"We are trying to send our message to let the world know what is happening and what will happen to the Maldives if climate change isn't checked," Nasheed said, according to his Web site.
Asked what would happen if Copenhagen fails, the president said, "we are all going to die," according to the site.
The ministers signed their wet suits, which are being auctioned, to raise money for coral reef protection in the Maldives, the Web site said.
Maldives is grappling with the very likely possibility that it will go under water if the current pace of climate change keeps raising sea levels. The Maldives is an archipelago of almost 1,200 coral islands south-southwest of India. Most of it lies just 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) above sea level.
The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change has forecast a rise in sea levels of at least 7.1 inches (18 cm) by the end of the century.
The country's capital, Male, is protected by sea walls. But creating a similar barrier around the rest of the country will be cost-prohibitive.

To read the remainder of this article please click on this link:


The Maldives or Maldive Islands, officially Republic of Maldives, is an island country in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls stretching along north-south direction off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and Chagos Archipelago. It stands in the Laccadive Sea, about seven hundred kilometres (435 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka. 
The atolls of Maldives encompass a territory spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometers, making it one of the most disparate countries in the world. It features 1,192 islets, of which two hundred islands are inhabited. (See map)  The Republic of Maldives capital and largest city is Malé, with a population of 103,693 (2006). It is located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll, in the Kaafu Atoll. It is also one of the Administrative divisions of the Maldives. Traditionally it was the King's Island, from where the ancient Maldive Royal dynasties ruled and where the palace was located. 

The Maldives consists of approximately 1,190 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls, along the north-south direction, spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometers, making this one of the most disparate countries in the world. The atolls are composed of live coral reefs and sand bars, situated atop a submarine ridge 960 kilometers long that rises abruptly from the depths of the Indian Ocean and runs from north to south. Only near the southern end of this natural coral barricade do two open passages permit safe ship navigation from one side of the Indian Ocean to the other through the territorial waters of Maldives. For administrative purposes the Maldives government organized these atolls into twenty one administrative divisions. The largest island of Maldives is Gan, which belongs to Laamu Atoll or Hahdhummathi Maldives. In Addu Atoll the westernmost islands are connected by roads over the reef and the total length of the road is 14 km. 
The Maldives holds the record for being the lowest country in the world, with a maximum natural ground level of only 2.3 m (7½ ft) with the average being only 1.5 m above sea level, though in areas where construction exists this has been increased to several metres. The reef is composed of coral debris and living coral. This acts as a natural barrier against the sea, forming lagoons. 

Over the last century, sea levels have risen about 20 centimetres (8 in) further rises of the ocean could threaten the existence of Maldives, being the lowest country in the world, with a maximum natural ground level of only 2.3 m (7½ ft) with the average being only 1.5 m above sea level. However, around 1970 the sea level there dropped 20-30 cm. In November 2008, President Mohamed Nasheed announced plans to look into purchasing new land in India, Sri Lanka, and Australia, due to his concerns about global warming and the possibility of much of the islands being inundated with water from rising sea levels. Current estimates place sea level rise at 59 cm by the year 2100. The purchase of land will be made from a fund generated by tourism. The President has explained his intentions, saying "We do not want to leave the Maldives, but we also do not want to be climate refugees living in tents for decades"(source: 

Source of map:

So, are President Mohamed Nasheed (pictured) 

 and his cabinet  a bunch of alarmists, are they just trying to bring publicity to their country for economic reasons or are the President's claims reliable and valid? 

To answer these questions I did some research online concerning the situation of the country of Maldives, and this is what I found:

 On  March 16, 2009 Andrew C. Revkin wrote the following:


Despite popular opinion and calls to action, the Maldives are not being overrun by sea level rise


"The Maldives, a strand of coral atolls south of India, is just about the most tenuous country on Earth. No patch of land in the island chain, where the population has risen from 200,000 to 400,000 in the last 25 years, is more than six feet or so above sea level. Even modest projections for a rise in sea level from global warming would increase flooding from storm surges. A higher rise could render hundreds of islands uninhabitable."

"That’s why the country has paid particularly close attention, since the early days of discussion of the issue, to scientists who warn of a growing human influence on climate and sea levels. On Sunday, the new president of the island nation, Mohamed Nasheed, prodded the world to get serious about cutting emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases by pledging, in a short piece in England’s Observer newspaper, to make theMaldives the first carbon-neutral country within a decade:
"Many politicians’ response to the looming catastrophe, however, beggars belief. Playing a reckless game of chicken with Mother Nature, they prefer to deny, squabble and procrastinate rather than heed the words of those who know best…. Spearheaded by a switch from oil to 100% renewable energy production within a decade, the Maldives will no longer be a net contributor to greenhouse gas emissions."
"The announcement was made in the Maldives, but synchronized with the London premiere of ” The Age of Stupid,” a new film on global warming and oil that is a mix of documentary, dramatization and animation. (I haven’t seen it yet, but the description reminds me of the work of Randy Olson, particularly his mock documentary ” Sizzle.”) Officials in the Maldives made the decision after soliciting a report on how to cut fossil fuel use and otherwise trim the country’s climate footprint from Chris Goodall and Mark Lynas, British environmentalists and authors of books on energy and climate."

"Perhaps the most straightforward projections of what a greenhouse future will bring in coming decades are those related to rising seas. A foot-and-a-half rise doesn’t sound like much – unless you live in a place that just barely pokes above the ocean. I learned this when I went to Toronto in 1988 to report on the First International Conference on the Changing Atmosphere. Most of the discussions centered on devising strategies to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from automobiles, power plants, and the burning of tropical forests. Among those in attendance was Hussein Manikfan, who holds the title Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Representative to the United Nations from the republic of Maldives."
"At first it seemed odd to find a representative from the Maldives at the meeting. The country, a sprinkling of 1,190 coral islets in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka, has no tropical forests, hardly any automobiles, and little industry beyond the canning of bonito. I spoke for a while with Manikfan. Why was he in Toronto? “To find out how much longer my country will exist,” was his simple reply.
Manikfan is worried because few of the islands have any point that is more than six feet above sea level. Even now, many of the atolls are awash during strong storms. The fear is that Manikfan’s nation – with a tradition of independence dating back thousands of years and its own language and alphabet – might have to be abandoned altogether, as if it were a slowly sinking ship."

r. Don Easterbrook responded today to Andy Revkin with this email, cc:d to me
I just read your article on sea level alarm in the Maldives. You may not be aware of a study there by Nils-Axel Morner, a Swedish sea level expert (former president of the INQUA Commission of Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution). Attached is photographic evidence by Morner that sea level in the Maldives is not rising relative to the coasts but has indeed fallen! Global sea level has been rising at a rate of about a foot per century but the Maldives are either rising or subject to a local sea level anomaly related to ocean currents and evaporation rates. Thus, the ‘poster child’ of Gore’s sea level alarm is invalid."

"Note also the Feb 2009 report of the SWEDISH SOUTH ASIAN STUDIES NETWORK at Lund U (a large, respected and very old school in Sweden) at:, in which they conclude, “In June 2004, Prof. Mörner published his research results in an article titled ”The Maldives Project: a future free from sea-level flooding” in the Contemporary South Asia magazine. However, the Maldivian government did not react positively to these findings since they went against the official policy, even though the facts presented seem to be beyond dispute and are confirmed in private by individual Maldivian researchers.”  I have submitted a letter to the editor to the NYT on this and I’ll let people know if it is published."

I  (Wayne), took this exerpt from the website posted above:

"The theory of an imminent threat of total flooding of the Maldives is however not undisputed. The Swedish researcher Nils-Axel Mörner, Professor Emeritus at the now closed-down Unit of Palegeophysics and Geodynamics at Stockholm University, has contested the theory on scientific grounds, claiming that the Indian Ocean is characterised by special features of sea level changes, different from other parts of the world. During the period 1999–2003 Prof. Mörner was president for the INQUA (International Association of Quaternary Research) Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution, with a sub-commission devoted to the Indian Ocean. A research programme carried out in the Maldives with local and international researchers gave some spectacular finds, showing that absolutely no sea level rise has taken place in Maldives during recent years (and at the same time they showed that the sea level in Maldives has shifted considerably over time – during the 14th Century A.D. it was for example one metre higher than today without causing any catastrophy. 
In June 2004, Prof. Mörner published his research results in an article titled ”The Maldives Project: a future free from sea-level flooding” in the Contemporary South Asia magazine. However, the Maldivian government did not react positively to these findings since they went against the official policy, even though the facts presented seem to be beyond dispute and are confirmed in private by individual Maldivian researchers."

From the news article entitled: "Maldives may last beyond this century: Expert" 

"some recent data challenge the widespread belief that the islands are destined to disappear and a few mainstream scientists are even cautiously optimistic about their chances for surviving relatively intact beyond the next century. "

"The outlook for the Maldives is not all doom and gloom," said Paul Kench of the University of Auckland in New Zealand. "The islands won't be the same, but they will still be there."

"Kench said his studies of the Maldives show the islands can adjust their shape in response to environmental changes, such as the rising seas and warmer temperatures predicted in the next century."

"Kench suggests the islands might move onto their reefs and build vertically, offsetting the potential threat of sea level rises. His research, published together with other scientists from Australia, New Zealand and the Maldives, shows some islands have rebuilt themselves as much as 1.6 feet (49 centimeters) higher. Their studies have been published in recent years in journals including Geology and the Journal of Geophysical Research."

"It's quite convincing work and seems to be quite widely accepted by the scientific community," said Andrew Cooper, a professor of coastal studies at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland.

"They have detailed geological evidence that this kind of growth has happened before in the past. ... I think the question of the Maldives being completely wiped out may be overstated." 

Following the devastating 2004 Asian tsunami, many scientists assumed the Maldives would be damaged. But Kench and his colleagues not only found little evidence of island erosion, but also that the tsunami had washed sediment ashore, making some islands taller than they were before the catastrophe.

Kench warned, however, that while only a small number of Maldivian islands may not be able to adapt to rising sea levels, those are unfortunately the ones where many people live: Male, the nation's capital, and Hulule. Residents of those islands will probably need to relocate to another country or move to other Maldivian islands that won't disappear so quickly, he said.

Building taller and moving to higher ground are examples of a hot trend in climate change policy: emphasizing adaptation.

While much global warming work aims to limit emissions, adaptation advocates argue for the need to combat the inevitable effects of climate change through forward planning and construction. That includes moving people, building sea walls, and new construction techniques.

Sea levels worldwide have been steadily rising, except in a handful of places, including the Maldives. But in the last 50 years, some data from satellite pictures and tide measurements suggest sea levels in the Maldives have dropped by as much as 12 inches (30 centimeters).

"That was definitely unexpected," said Jonathan Overpeck, director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth at the University of Arizona. Overpeck said the decline in the Maldives' sea levels is probably due to local factors like ocean temperatures and currents.

Such data is inconclusive, however, and with few available records, the Indian Ocean remains one of the world's least understood oceans. 

Jianjun Yin, an assistant research scientist who monitors sea levels at Florida State University, said the drop in the Maldives could be caused by increased evaporation in the Indian Ocean. Evaporation makes water more dense, thus lowering sea levels.

Yin said the Maldives' defiance of the global trend of rising sea levels could be temporary. "I don't think the Maldives will disappear in a few decades, but maybe in another hundred years it will become a very serious situation," he said.

Other scientists think coral reefs may help save the islands. Under normal conditions, reefs can grow inches (centimeters) every year, allowing them to keep up with at least some sea level rise. The reefs form natural barriers that protect islands from being eroded by rising sea levels.

But rising tides and temperatures may conspire to stunt the corals' growth. As sea levels rise, light conditions underwater worsen, making it difficult for the reefs to expand; their health also depend upon relatively cool waters.

"One of the $64,000 questions is whether corals will be able to grow fast enough to keep up with sea level rises," Cooper said.

Many scientists estimate that by 2100, global sea levels will rise by 3 feet (91 centimeters), due to melting ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica. But because no one knows how fast these will melt, that figure comes with a significant margin of error.

"That is a huge question which limits our ability to predict what is going to happen in the Maldives," said Steve Nerem, a professor at the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research.

Scientists are unsure if water from the melting ice caps might hang around Greenland and Antarctica, or if they will spread out across the Earth's oceans, and if they do, how fast that spread will happen.

Though uncertainty about future sea level rises may be good news for the Maldives, and for tourists seeking their sandy beaches, most scientists urge the country to make contingency plans.

So, now my dear reader, you have an understanding of the situation on Maldives, and you have the comments about the situation from experts, from which you can make your own conclusions regarding this situation. I would enjoy hearing what you have to say about this issue.

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.