Recent studies have identified thousands of low-lying islands that are likely to vanish or become uninhabitable by the middle of this century as a result of rising sea levels. Islands that are home to hundreds of thousands of people will experience flooding, a lack of fresh water, and infrastructure damage that could push them to a “tipping point” over the next two or three decades.
One of the most important goals of COP24 in Poland is to establish a set of rules for implementing the Paris Agreement guidelines. As these negotiations continue, a group of small island nations is stepping forward to remind the world just how critical and urgent these decisions really are. If the conversation continues without the necessary action, these countries could disappear forever.
Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives, told reporters in Poland: ”We are not prepared to die, and the Maldives have no intention of dying. We are going to do everything in our power to keep our heads above the water.”
According to Time Magazine, these vulnerable island nations are pushing for a more aggressive climate action plan and have even launched a campaign to let other countries know that they will be held accountable if they hold back progress. The fate of these islands rests entirely on the decisions that are made by the rest of the world, and COP24 is particularly important.
The best possible outcome of the climate change conference is that leaders will agree to limit warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius and countries will commit to new emissions reductions targets by 2020. So far, pledges made by countries will not be enough to limit warming to 2°C, much less to accomplish the more ambitious target of 1.5°C.
Meanwhile, some nations have already lost islands and others are expected to lose the fisheries that drive local economies and promote food security.
The good news is that an October report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed that scientists have already identified ways that global warming could be limited to 1.5°C. “Limiting warming to 1.5° is not impossible, but will require unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society,” said IPCC chair Hoesung Lee. “Every bit of warming matters.”