The Maldives stand an average of 7ft above sea level, and the government says they face being wiped out if oceans rise. The government of the Maldives has held a cabinet meeting about 16ft underwater to highlight the threat of global warming.
BBC, 17 October 2009
The island has an area of approximately 10.5 square miles with an average natural elevation of four feet above sea level. The British wish you an enjoyable stay on Diego Garcia. Upon your arrival, please familiarize yourself with BIOT [British Indian Ocean Territory] regulations and try to preserve the island's ecology.
US Military Sealift Command (MSC) website briefing for US personnel
How nice that the US Navy is concerned about the "island's ecology." No such care was extended to the Island's human inhabitants, who were summarily exiled by an Anglo-American pact that denied their very existence (see my post about the long-suffering Chagos Islanders).
But the Maldives President's worries about being swamped under the rising tides of climate change are starting to have their impact in strategic circles. Here's Senator John Kerry in September:
Diego Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean, a vital hub for our military operations across the Middle East, sits on an atoll just a few feet above sea level.
Kerry's concerns about the security impact of global warning (from the Boston Globe) were echoed weeks later by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, speaking to an audience that probably cares more than most about catastrophic effects of global warming - Lloyd's of London:
Rising sea levels will have a clear effect on the ability of our armed forces to do their jobs. Look at Diego Garcia. It is an important logistical hub, including for this country; it is also only a few feet above sea level at its highest point. A one metre rise in sea levels and most of it would be flooded. We need to assess the impacts that these kinds of events would have.
Now, though it's gratifying that these two gentlemen are concerned about the planet's health and its defense, I wish that something other than the prospect of a B-52 runway getting flooded would galvanize them into action.
The upside for the Chagos Islanders, who have been quietly rotting away in distant Mauritius for upwards of forty years, is that their native Diego Garcia and other Chagos Archipelago islands might start taking water, and therefore send the US and UK scurrying for other lily pads (how about those in Central Asia?).
Maybe the Chagossians should team up with the Maldivians to drum up support for their respective causes. With his underwater cabinet meeting stunt - "What else could I do to attract attention?" - the Maldives President appears to be on an effective public diplomacy strategy.