Climate change may continue to seem like a semi-ambiguous, far-off phenomenon to many Americans, even despite the extreme weather than wracked the nation last year. But to millions of people around the world, those on the front lines of global warming, I assure you: it is a real and imminent threat.
Take the Maldives, for example. The small island nation may be the first country in the world to be entirely swallowed up by rising sea levels caused by climate change. Those rising sea levels are already endangering the nation's cherished beaches, and will before too long render many parts of the country inhospitable. As Andrew Marantz described in his great dispatch from the island for Harper's Magazine (subs. req'd), the approaching end times for the Maldives has given rise to a strange blend of doomed apathy and anxious resignation among the citizenry there.
And now, the issue is reaching a boiling point. The president of Maldives has recently announced that he is considering moving his entire country to Australia before it disappears beneath the waves. The Sydney Morning Herald reports (via TP Green):
THE President of what could be the first country in the world lost to climate change has urged Australia to prepare for a mass wave of climate refugees seeking a new place to live. The Maldivian President, Mohamed Nasheed, said his government was considering Australia as a possible new home if the tiny archipelago disappears beneath rising seas.And the Maldives have already begun preparing for what is now looking like the inevitable: "The country has established a sovereign wealth fund, drawn from its tourist revenue, to be used to buy land overseas and finance the relocation of the country's population of 350,000," SMH reports.
''It is increasingly becoming difficult to sustain the islands, in the natural manner that these islands have been,'' he told the Herald in an interview ... ''If nations won't do good for themselves, they really must do good for everyone around, simply in your self-interest as well ... I think it's really quite necessary for Australians and for every rich country to understand that this is unlike any other thing that's happened before.''
Climate change is nothing less than an existential threat to Maldives, as it is for many other nations. Not just other island nations like Tuvalu, but poor, unprepared ones that face devastating floods or drought – think Bangladesh, Pakistan, and East African nations.
In other words, while millions of Americans are watching news reports about climate change on the evening news and shaking their heads, or nodding along with influential naysayers like Fox News or Rush Limbaugh – millions of others are staring down its barrel, and some are already packing their bags.