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Tony de Brum, leader in the fight against climate change, dies at 72

From his home, the Marshall Islands, Tony de Brum saw the effects of global warming firsthand and became a champion of the Paris Climate Agreement. The president of the Marshall Islands called him a national hero.

Tony de Brum didn't just campaign against rising sea levels. He was the Marshall Islands' climate ambassador and former foreign minister. He also fought the use of nuclear weapons, after having witnessed nuclear testing in the Pacific nation as a child. In 2015, he won the Alternative Nobel Prize for his efforts in tackling climate change.

De Brum was considered essential for the Paris accord - he helped form the "High Ambition Coalition" of 100 rich and poor nations and played a role in securing the global commitment to try to limit the Earth's warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), compared to preindustrial times.

"The very existence of the Paris Agreement owes a lot to Tony de Brum," Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine said in a statement. "He was a giant of history, a legend in every meaning of the word, and a custodian of our shared future."

Watch video 03:33

Climate change interview with Tony deBrum

The Marshall Islands are being slowly swallowed by the sea. Because of that, and the continued temperature rise, de Brum's home is likely to disappear soon. The island group protrudes just 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) above sea level and is one of the nations most vulnerable to climate change in the world.

But de Brum was determined not to leave his home country.

"The thought of evacuation is repulsive to us," he told The Associated Press in 2015. "We think that the more reasonable thing to do is to seek to end this madness, this climate madness, where people think that smaller, vulnerable countries are expendable and therefore they can continue to do business as usual."

The climate activist died on Tuesday aged 72, in the capital of the Marshall Islands, Majuro, surrounded by his family.

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