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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Sinking island inspires Cabinet meeting – underwater

October 16th, 2009
11:14 AM ET

(CNN) - The President of the Maldives is to chair an underwater Cabinet meeting tomorrow to highlight the threat global warming and rising sea levels pose to his low-lying nation.

President Mohamed Nasheed and 14 of his government ministers will don scuba gear and descend to a table six meters underwater.

To prepare, the ministers have been learning the basics of scuba diving on the weekends. Nasheed already is a certified diver.

Read more about the watery meeting

The Maldives is the lowest-lying country on the planet, with the majority of the island’s landmass less than two meters above sea level. Its highest point is only just over the height of an average man above the waters of the surrounding Indian Ocean.

As sea levels have risen over 20 centimeters in the last century, scientists predict that by the end of this century the Maldives may be uninhabitable - a modern day Atlantis consumed by the sea.

Earlier this year President Nasheed announced he was looking to relocate the country to new lands - possibly in India, Sri Lanka or Australia - and was putting aside funds from the island’s main source of income, tourism, for that purpose.

Nasheed is also looking to the climate change conference in Copenhagen at the end of the year to help the islands with the problem of rising sea levels.

President Nasheed will be on Connect the World tonight. Send us your thoughts and comments on the Maldives, underwater cabinet meetings and climate change, and we'll include the best in the show tonight.

Filed under:  General
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Clint Kegel

    Of course there is no such thing as global warming. There is constant global temperature change that is cause by the sun and many other natural factors. But humans have nothing to do with climate change as we can't change it one way or the other. We know the Vikings were grazing sheep and raising cabbage on Greenand 1,000 years ago. Greenland is now inhabitable. I have sent Algore two letters inquiring how many SUV's were removed from the roads and how many power stations were closed 1,000 years ago to return Greenland to a frozen wasteland. Apparently he is still doing research because he hasn't answered me yet. I'll bet he is having Michael Moore help him and he can't get Michael away from the dinner table long enough to do the research!

    October 16, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Reply
  2. Mohammed Dawood

    Will a relocation of your country to lands like SriLanka, India or Bangladesh be a good choice? considering the history of people always rejecting and trying to fight off newcomers to their lands.

    October 16, 2009 at 2:58 pm | Reply
  3. Qasim Abdullah

    Of Course there is a thing called Global Warming,and yes it is a Natural Phenomenon, this Phenomena is known as "Global Warming".
    Basically, Global Warming is a Natural Process which cannot be stopped nor Altered by any means, the only role us Humans play in global warming is just Fastening the Process.
    The Planet will eventually will grow Hotter and Hotter Centuries after Centuries even if there was no Human Technology at all,
    Human Technology is Just Helps it grow warmer day by day,there is absolutely nothing we can do about it, all this "Climate Change Conferences " are just for the name-sake, its completely pointless and useless, Global Warming is Inevitable.

    October 16, 2009 at 3:54 pm | Reply
  4. advaita

    The only thing constant is CHANGE. Get used to it!

    October 16, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Reply
  5. Tom Smith

    Do you think world leaders should host more events like these especially in countries like your own that are experiencing global warming directly, so the events will be more physical and visual rather than just verbal within the councils and governements of the world?

    Because I think if it was more this way it will make the world understand this issue more and we will possibly see more action and publicity underway from the media and governments

    Otherwise I am quite looking forward to seeing some pictures from this event and I'm sure the talk's go well and I believe it's a good idea.

    October 16, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Reply
  6. Evan

    Of course Clint you're right.

    There is NO such thing as global warming, despite the decades worth of research and evidence that points to the contrary. Of course, you'll probably argue that the devil told those scientists to falsify that evidence, since judging from your post, I gather you to be an inept, right-wing Bible thumper.

    October 16, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Reply
  7. cookoy

    To deny any involvement in Global Warming is really sad. It's like saying "Forest fires occur in nature before humans invented fire. So why bother putting out forest fires? They'll happen anyway again. Let mother nature decide our destinies. Five billion years from now the sun will expand and engulf the Earth. We're toast anyway. So why bother?"

    October 16, 2009 at 4:53 pm | Reply
  8. Bob

    It's nice to know so many people can pronounce definitively based on their own biases. Shows great independence. Not much intelligence, but great independence of mind. Why would scientists who study these phenomena know more than you? Join the ostrich. Bury your head in the sand – but if I might make a small recommendation – don't do it on a beach in the Maldives.

    October 16, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Reply
  9. Allison

    OK- Even if you do not belive in global warming, why would you not want to change how we live to help the people who live today, and the children who will grow up for tomorrow live a better cleaner more efficent life? This debate is not about belief, but about helping people and being concious of how we "steward the earth". If we all stopped caring about who is right vs who is wrong, and sent letters to our congressmen about landfills and making recycling mandatory, and severing our dependance on foriegn oil by producing cleaner sources of energy in our country, we may be able to be an independant nation again, instead of morgaged out to the Middle East and China!

    Think big! Not small.

    Be willing to change not resistant to being better.

    October 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Reply
  10. keith

    Actually. there are periods of Global Warming and Global Cooling. Climate change occurs and it is a dynamic process driven by the interaction of a myriad of systems on the earth with energy being supplied from our Sun. Many of the interacting processes are not fully understood. To predict the evolution of global climate accurately is not within our capability. Quite simply we have insufficient understanding. While control of the climate system is not within current technological capability, at some in the future it probably will be. However, we
    need to live with the consequences of climate change. This is what political people should be concentrating on. Leave the predictions to the scientists – it is a very difficult and technical area and an untrained journalist or politician is about as useful as an elephant in a China shop. At some point in the near future the Maldives will disappear – the question of how to integrate the populations of the Maldives and other areas under danger into other communities needs to be addressed – and this is non-trivial. People should be putting a lot more effort in to this area. Climate Change Conferences are important from a scientific point of view, it is necessary to exchange ideas and discuss new concepts when trying to understand a very multi-faceted problem.

    October 16, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Reply
  11. Daniel

    Clint... (I'm answering the first post)

    Of course there have been natural fluctuations in the Earth's climate. The Romans went from present-day Italy to Switzerland with Elephants through passages now filled with glaciers. Vikings named Greenland for a reason since there was no ice on it.

    That's not where the debate is.

    The issue is that the current global warming is happening extremely fast. It is the fastest of all global warmings ever measured in the past 12,000 years (scientists can tell accurately the average expected temperatures by taking samples of air bubbles trapped in the arctic and Antarctic ice from these periods). Such a quick change is not naturally caused and has clearly been demonstrated to be correlated to human activity - its production of carbon dioxide.

    If you drew a line-chart with (1) human activity (starting with the industrial revolution), (2) its resulting carbon dioxide emission, and (3) the rise in temperature of the earth's atmosphere. You have 3 perfectly parallel and correlated curves.

    If these curves weren't related, say a change in temperature only started in 1950 AD, or in 1400 AD, then I would be on your side Clint. I’m like you, Clint, I always question everything I see. But in our case, global temperatures AND industrial activity started to rise at the EXACT same time, and are growing at the EXACT same rate.

    Clint, I understand your point; how can we, little humans, produce enough carbon dioxide to change the composition of this huge Earth's atmosphere? Well, Clint, if you remember 6th grade science class, the Earth's "air" is composed of 70% nitrogen, 20% oxygen... well that only leaves 1% for all other gases. 1% of the world's atmosphere, it's not that big! And you have all kinds of funny gases, like helium, hydrogen, etc, floating around. That leaves even less space for... carbon dioxide. And it is carbon dioxide that allows us to live on this planet! Why? It traps heat from the sun to keep us warm, otherwise, we would be freezing at night in mid-summer. Now, Clint, think again of the amount of carbon dioxide produced by humans, but instead of comparing it to the Earth's Atmosphere, you're now comparing it to this tiny little fraction we've just discussed. Now, if you changed that tiny amount, the "ability" of carbon dioxide to trap more heat is significantly changed. There is such a small amount of carbon dioxide gas regulating our planet's heating system, that injecting a bit more of it drastically heats-up the planet. We have been doing that for the past 200 years.

    Clint, why do you think all the world's government are united behind fighting this phenomenon if there was still the smallest doubt that humans were not responsible? Why do you think there is an entire system being put in place of carbon-emission cap-and-trade (i.e. buying and selling rights to pollute with carbon dioxide). It costs time, money and a lot of work… when we have so many other problems. Clint, tell me why do all world’s governments gather to discuss global warming if it is just a natural phenomenon and we couldn’t do anything about it?

    You know what the DOD considers the single biggest threat to US security? Terrorism? Nope, but close. That's actually a cause of what I'll reveal. Where do terrorist recruit? Miserable, poor, uneducated, "nothing-to-lose" populations... often displaced populations! If coastal countries get flooded, that will lead to displacement of millions of people (including our friends in the Maldives), leading to discrimination, war, refugee camps... breeding grounds for weak, desperate minds waiting for a purpose... it only takes a few extremist to recruit hundreds of them. You guessed it right, the single biggest threat to the US, according to the DOD, on the long run, is global warming.

    And there is a fantastic historical example. Yes, Clint, it has happened in the past. 480 AD, where present day Belgium and Holland are, lived the Saxons. These people lived on lands being regularly flooded (due to sea level rising at that time). They were surrounded by other barbarian groups with nowhere else to settle, constantly fighting, with no place to call home anymore. Long story short, after the Romans left Great Britain to defend Rome, a king overthrew the leftover Romans and hired the Saxons as mercenaries, only a handful. The displaced Saxons saw a weak country ready to be taken over, and over a century took over the entire Island, killing all those against them. If these Saxons had been able to stay on their land originally, none of this would have happened... Yes Clint, that global warming flooded their lands (like it will happen with coastal countries and the Maldives) displaced them and turned these people into criminals.

    Clint, if all the above was too much information for you to digest at once, remember just this: We are the first generation able to change the world's climate, and the last one that will not suffer its consequences. What will you tell your grand kids? Will you be like one of these senile old men still claiming that nobody ever walked on the moon?

    October 16, 2009 at 5:14 pm | Reply
  12. Jayelle May

    Daniel, I see your argument about industrialisation and climate change and their 'EXACT same rate' of increase. But I challenge you that you can say the same thing about world population and climate change.

    The average person has a breath with the volue of 500ml (0.5l)

    A normal intake of breath is normal atmospheric composition, as such contains 0.0360% CO2 or 0.18ml of CO2 intake. However we breathe out about 5% CO2 or 25ml with an average of 13,000 breaths a day. Thats 325,000ml (325L )of CO2 Which means by the end of the day, a person on average will exhale 1kg of CO2. Now add there are 6 billion people alive we can say humans exhale 6 billion kg of CO2 a day.

    Compare that to the fact that as a rough estimate, the burning of one litre of gasoline produces about 2.4 pounds (1.08kg) of CO2. A really good north American car will get 40mpg which is still only 18km to the litre, which means for every 18 km that you drive, you will release 2.4 lbs (1.08 kg) of CO2 or roughly what you breathe in a day.
    Climate Change Research

    October 16, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Reply
  13. Sofie

    Sad to see that in this day and age the bloggers up there are discussing whether there is global warming or not, etc. The fact of the matter is that seas have warmed up and risen, and that beautiful countries like the Maldives are facing extremely complicated challenges because of environmental neglect and ignorance. Congrats to the President of the Maldives for insisting that we listen to him – yes – he has come up with solutions which may seem extraordinary and wacky but what do you want him to do? Be quiet? Congrats Mr. President!!

    October 16, 2009 at 6:19 pm | Reply
  14. seabob

    Clint, you are right, and wrong. Greenland has been ice-free before, but it was more than 1,000 years ago. Ice ages have come and gone many times in the past. However we were not here to cause them, or experience them. Just remember, that ice ages always follow the global-warming ice melt. The warming will trigger the cooling, as it has in the past.

    October 16, 2009 at 6:41 pm | Reply
  15. Zinga

    To Clint Kegel.
    Your mistaken about greenland. Sure It was different back then, if you knew world history you might know that icelanders were taken there, thinking it was a real "green" land, only to find they were hustled by Erik the Red who gave the name Greenland so ppl would want to go there. sure there were trees and grass, but there aren't any today due to human actions -cutting down tress for building, and using grass for pasture – the norse people proved that human action can affect the future of a land – just like Easter Island, so the climate did get colder due to natural climate change, but human action is what made the land Bare.

    October 16, 2009 at 8:06 pm | Reply
  16. Majd

    I just came back from the Maldives and I think this entire thing is way overblown. Why should they have to leave the islands? All they have to do is do a little bit of backfilling and they are back on dry land again. Mali, the capital of Maldives is around 2500m by 500m ... it would take very little effort to raise the level in a week let alone in 100 years. In Dubai they are building huge developments in the sea, and in Holland they have aquired huge vasts of land from the ocean. What the Maldives needs is some good engineers and a plan of action and they will be just fine. There are other solutions such as matching the rate of sea rise with the rate of coral growth. Coral growth can be dramatically accelerated using wire mesh and simple electric current. There are a lot of solutions to save this beautiul place, but they have to get some good engineers and planners on board.

    October 16, 2009 at 9:06 pm | Reply
  17. Derrick Chapman

    Note to Maldives: Hedge your bets. While negotiating for a higher ground location, consider building floating islands in your current location. Maintain your territorial claim by constructing "anchors" for the floating islands while it is technologically easy to do. Even if the majority of your population has to be relocated in the future, your territorial waters shouldn't be ceded away by abandonment.

    October 16, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Reply
  18. El Aguila

    If we re-read the article it seems to mention that the islands are sinking and not being inundated by rising seas. Subsidence of islands and other land features is historically common, natural, and normal. There are parts of the planet that are being raised higher than mean sea levels, and some are subsiding. For much of the last 5 million years mean sea levels were much higher than they are now. So even if there were a rise in sea level, and there seems to be no meaningful evidence of any such increase aside from speculative reports, then sea levels would be trending toward those greater historical highs. It is shameful that the majority of journalists are neither minimally qualified to report on such matters, nor honest in doing so.

    October 16, 2009 at 10:17 pm | Reply
  19. Tim McMullen

    The climate will change globally in the presence or absence of humans, however the idea that humans have NO impact on the climate is ludicrous. Likewise, the idea that humans should DO nothing to ameliorate their impact is equally ludicrous.

    The earth does not need people: people need the earth.

    October 16, 2009 at 11:09 pm | Reply
  20. Alan Temling

    I agree with Clint Kegel.
    There is no such thing as global warming caused by humans.
    100 years ago the average temperature on earth was hotter than what we have today with far less green house gasses produced.

    As for the Maldives if they start a sea re-claimation program now then they can raise the floor levels of the building, take surrounding sand or even import the sand to raise the ground level to a safe level that will not threaten their nation.
    Maybe they should ask how it was done in Dubai, it has got to be cheaper than relocating and displacing a nation.

    An alternative is to simply raise the buildings and wait until it looks like Venice!

    October 16, 2009 at 11:33 pm | Reply
  21. bronso

    I'm sorry to see that so many people –an entire nation– is having to leave home forever. When the earth no longer will let you live where your family and friends are from, it's got to be very hard. There's a lot of loss there.

    All my best thoughts for all of the families.

    October 17, 2009 at 12:07 am | Reply
  22. Erik Olbec

    Daniel: How about the last 9% (70% nitrogen, 20% oxygen, 1 % other gases)?
    Apart from that, I agree with you.

    October 17, 2009 at 1:07 am | Reply
  23. Gene

    Evan said, referring to Clint Kegel: "...judging from your post, I gather you to be an inept, right-wing Bible thumper."

    I read Evan's post about 10 times trying to find out how in the world you came to this conclusion. I'm assuming the evidence you have to come to that conclusion is the same "decades worth of research and evidence that points" to global warming. Yeah, you know, that evidence that doesn't exist... that same evidence that causes people to come to insane conclusions that make no sense when looking at what is actually there. Yeah, that evidence.

    October 17, 2009 at 5:00 am | Reply
  24. Arrhenius

    Thank you sirsand madams for your emotive rants. The rest of us live in a world where scientific fact leads to the fundamental decisions we make daily. Please keep your social engineering to yourselves. Here is some fact.

    Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is not a pollutant. CO2 is a clear, odourless gas that is necessary to life. The essential fact to remember is that carbon dioxide is at the most 385 parts per 1,000,000 of the atmosphere, which is 0.0385 percent.
    Smallquantity though it is, no life could exist on earth without it. All life on earth is built from Hydrogen, Carbon, Oxygen and Nitrogen. CO2 provides two of these fundamental building blocks.
    The vast oceans which cover 71% of the planet, plus plants, absorb 98.5% of the CO2 that is emitted by nature and man. As CO2 increases in the atmosphere, nature's controlling mechanism causes plant growth to increase via photosynthesis; CO2 is absorbed, and oxygen is freed. Photosynthesis is an endothermic, (cooling), reaction.

    Ask your primary school aged children about the carbon cycle.

    The alleged greenhouse effect is a non-existent effect. No greenhouse, whether made from glass, plastic, cardboard or steel will reach a higher inside temperature due to the ‘magic’ of re-radiated energy. If it did, engineers would have been able to design power stations made from air, mirrors and glass, extracting more energy out of it than was put into it.

    The taxation of carbon emissions is another socialist control on the private sector. That is all it is. Restricting the production of CO2, this essential non pollutant is absolute nonsense.

    October 17, 2009 at 6:18 am | Reply
  25. Vaail Hussain

    I am from the Maldives and i do believe a lot of posts here are from those whose environment has not been affected as much as the islands we live in.

    I have three sons, Zaidan, Alhan and Kiyan who are only learning to talk, walk and crawl. They are looking forward to living on this earth, experiencing the same environment as their grandfathers did. But i fear, and my heart weeps, knowing that the ever changing environment will rob them of exploring the islands of Maldives as my fathers did. Or even walking up Fox Glaciers in New Zealand as their parents did.

    I know that the seas around me have changed drastically over the last 20 years. I have lived and experienced it. The seas are rougher to travel, there are more storms, some of the beaches i used to play in are no longer there. There have been so much erosion due to stronger currents and storms, some houses in islands have been swept away.

    We are even expecting a coral bleaching of our reefs to occur next year due to extreme water temperature.

    This is my Niagara Falls, this is our Napa Valley, its our life!

    So i know the environment is changing. You can go back to history to how the vikings lived or what Greenland used to be.

    I just want my children to be able to experience this world as i knew it. Even today it is close to being taken away from them, as i know the storms out there are growing ever stronger and the seas are warming.

    I want them to be able to have children knowing they will be free to live and learn.

    I commend Mr. Nasheed for his work to change the course. He has done it in Maldives once, so it can be done.

    I just want to ask him, – "Copenhagen is billed as our greatest hope to date to change the course on environmental impacts of global warming. What happens if the industrial nations of this world DOES NO DO ENOUGH?"

    October 17, 2009 at 8:24 am | Reply
  26. shafeeu

    President Nasheed is a good example for other world leaders. He is trying his best to save the Maldives and countries alike. I think purpose of his under water cabinet meeting is to advertise maldive's so that the tourists occupancy will be higher and more income to our country

    October 17, 2009 at 9:00 am | Reply
  27. Senthil

    Global warming or not... Can anyone agree that polluting everything around is GOOD??
    our knowledge could be limited to analyze such a issue but we are supposed to have the common sense that polluting anything is bad. Look at far simpler symptoms like quality of air and how healthy the plants are at your garden.

    October 17, 2009 at 10:27 am | Reply
  28. Alex

    Daniel, Let me demolish your argument in one fell swoop: 95% of the planet's greenhouse heat pick up is due to humidity, water dissolved in the air. CO2 contributes only 5% of the greenhouse effect. But not only, this 5% greenhouse effect due to CO2 is caused by the first 50ppm of CO2. Increasing the level of CO2 above the 50ppm level is practically ineffective. YOUR SCIENCE IS WRONG. ANTROPOGENIC GLOBAL WARMING IS A MYTH. WE HAVE NOW ENETERD A LONG COOLING PHASE THAT MAY BE LAST CENTURY OR MORE. THE SUN HAS ENETERD A MAUNDER-LIKE PHASE, LIKE THE ONE THAT CREATED THE LITTLE ICE AGE 400 YEARS AGO. GO READ SOME REAL SCIENCE .

    October 17, 2009 at 12:06 pm | Reply

    CONGRATULATIONS to beloved president Nasheed on letting the world know that we Maldivians will be affected if global warming rises at this level. Once again heartiest congatulations to PRESIDENT NASHEED.

    October 17, 2009 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  30. Abba Ade Adebisi : Nigeria

    A record of events, as of the life or development of a people, constitute to global warming plus neutrality change in nature, it's bound to change the clement. Clint, you need to believe global is warming up for a change.

    October 17, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Reply
  31. Muthyavan.

    Maldives will not be the only country in south Asia which is threaten by the global warming. A threaten increase in sea level may flood many parts in South Asia which have crowded coastal population like Bangladesh and India in its coastal areas. But many countries including Bangladesh and India have not taken any steps toward reducing their share in carbon emissions into atmospheres. Action by Bangladesh government in highlighting these dangers is greatly appreciable and only by a joint action by all nation the global warming problem can be tackled.

    October 17, 2009 at 11:48 pm | Reply

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