One of the early victims of global warming is the Maldives, which could go under because of rising sea levels. The government is already implementing survival strategies, as a climate summit in Cancun is underway.
The Maldives comprise 1,200 islands, 200 are inhabited
"Morning children!" "Morning Miss Kate!" "So today we're going to be talking about climate change, which is a vitally important topic that affects every one of you. Now and also in the future. OK?"
It's 8 am at Billabong High School in Male, the capital of the Maldives. Kate Robert is a young teacher from England and the schoolchildren in their blue and yellow uniforms know exactly what she is talking about.
"One thing is soil erosion and that's not really nice to see because it used to be a beautiful island," says Mohamed.
"I'm actually scared about what’s going to happen because some people have predicted there won't be any Maldives at all in 2020," adds Aminath.
The Maldives are very popular with tourists
Rising sea levels spell disaster
According to UN climate experts, sea levels could rise by up to 60 centimeters over the next 90 years because of the melting of the polar ice caps.
This would be a nightmare scenario for the island state south of India. The Maldives comprise 1,200 islands, of which 200 are inhabited. The highest point of the island state lies 1.5 meters above sea level.
Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed is a vocal campaigner for the environment: "We're worried about it because we are all going to die. People are worried that there is less fish, that there is no water, that they are having to relocate the islands because of coastal erosion. We are islanders. Our nature is to live on an island, be very secluded and be surrounded by water."
Hulhumale can accommodate 30,000 'climate refugees'
A largely artificial island has been created with sand and coral debris just a few kilometers away from Male. 3,000 people already live there but the Hulhumale will be able to accommodate 30,000 in future.
There are already businesses, a school, a hospital and a mosque. 21-year-old Abdulla Aswan has lived on the island for a year. He says his family no longer felt safe on their home island a few kilometers north of Male. "My home is quite near the beach and the sea waves came directly to our house. My mum told me she hadn’t seen this before."
Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed is still hopeful about the future
'We can save the world"
Not only are the inhabitants of the Maldives worried about rising sea levels. Rising temperatures are also worrying them.
The Indian Ocean is expected to have got warmer by between 1 and 3 degrees by the end of the century. Experts warn that there will be more cyclones and extreme weather conditions as a result.
President Nasheed was disappointed by last year's summit in Copenhagen. This year, he has fewer expectations from the climate change conference but remains optimistic: "I still think that even if we don’t get a deal or a complete arrangement in Cancun, there is hope. I think we can win and I think we can save the world. I don’t think that we’re all going to die."
The outspoken president has been known to say that if the Maldives go under tomorrow, London and New York will be next.
Author: Susanne Günther (act)
Editor: Matthias von Hein