- The water level has already increased by 15 to 25 centimetres since 1900.
- If current warming trends continue, the sea level might increase by another metre (39 inches).
- Some experts believe that if this oceanic sovereignty is maintained, a state will not perish.
Will the Maldives and Tuvalu vanish off the face of the world if the seas rise and engulf them? What happens to their people then?
As global warming accelerates, it poses an unprecedented challenge to the international community and threatens whole peoples with the loss of their homelands and sense of identity.
According to former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, “this is the biggest calamity that a people, a country, and a nation can endure.”
According to UN climate experts, sea levels have risen by 15 to 25 cm (6 to 10 inches) since 1900, and the pace of rise is accelerating, especially in some tropical areas.
If present warming trends continue, the seas surrounding the Pacific and Indian Ocean islands might rise by one metre (39 inches) by the end of the century.
This is still lower than the maximum point reached by the tiniest, flattest island countries, but as sea levels rise, storms and tidal surges will become more common: Many atolls will become uninhabitable long before they are buried by the sea owing to salt contamination of the water and land.
According to a study cited by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, five countries—the Maldives, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Kiribati—may become uninhabitable by 2100, resulting in the formation of 600,000 stateless climate refugees.
It’s an odd situation. Of fact, wars have entirely devastated whole nations. However, according to Sumudu Atapattu of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “we haven’t witnessed a situation when existing states have completely lost territory due to a physical event, or events, such as sea-level rise, or catastrophic weather occurrences.”
According to the reference of the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, a state must have a defined territory, a permanent population, a functional government, and the capacity to cooperate with other states. As a result, if the region is engulfed or no one can live on what remains, at least one of the conditions has been satisfied.
“The second argument I want to make is that statehood is a legal fiction created for international law purposes. As a result, we must be able to develop a new narrative to encompass these deterritorialized states “Atapattu chimed in.
The purpose of the “Rising Nations” campaign, which was announced by numerous Pacific countries in September, is to “persuade members of the UN to recognise our nation, even if we are buried under water, since it is our identity,” according to Tuvalu’s prime minister Kausea Natano.
People have even started to speculate about how these Nation-States 2.0 would function.
According to Kamal Amakrane, executive director of Columbia University’s Global Centre for Climate Mobility, “you can have property somewhere, people somewhere else, and government somewhere another.”
First, the UN would need to issue a “political declaration,” followed by a “treaty” between the threatened state and a “host state” ready to accept the exiled government as a form of permanent embassy. As a result, the inhabitants would have dual citizenship, which may be in one state or another.
Amakrane, a former UN official, points to an ambiguity in the Montevideo Convention: “When you speak about territory, is it dry or wet land?”
People Are “Very Imaginative”
Kiribati, a tiny country by land area, has one of the world’s largest exclusive economic zones (EEZs), with 33 islands spread over 3.5 million square kilometres (1.3 million square miles) in the Pacific.
Some experts believe that if this oceanic sovereignty is maintained, a state will not perish.
Even though some islands are already being absorbed as shorelines recede, freezing the EEZs would safeguard access to critical resources.
Members of the Pacific Islands Forum, including Australia and New Zealand, affirmed in August 2021 that their maritime zones “would continue to apply, without reduction, regardless of any physical changes owing to climate change-related sea level rise.”
Despite rising flood levels, some people would not consider abandoning their threatened country.
Former Maldives President Nasheed speculates that since people are so innovative, they would “find floating ways” to live in this location.
It is unclear where such efforts might be funded in these states. The financing of “loss and damage” caused by the consequences of global warming will be a heated issue at the COP27 in Egypt in November.
“You always need to have a plan B,” Amakrane argues, even as experts like himself advocate “the right to remain” for individuals who do not want to renounce their culture.
In this spirit, he has called for the launch of a “political” process to ensure the future of inhospitable places “as soon as possible,” “because it gives people hope.”
Otherwise, he warns, the present’s uncertainty “creates hatred and instability, and with that, you ruin a nation, a people.”