But this week, a collection of international lawyers and politicians have begun work to ensure that doesn’t happen.
They can’t prevent what many scientists see as the physical inevitability: a rise in ocean levels of 1 to 2 meters (3 to 6 feet) by 2100, even if all greenhouse gas emitting into the atmosphere were to cease tomorrow. Rather, they are exploring ways to use existing formal and informal rules that would allow many nations to continue as legal entities entitled to ocean fishing and mineral exploration rights, even if their entire populations were forced to relocate elsewhere.
The tiny nations of the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati and more are among those at most risk in the Pacific. These atoll nations are among the lowest-lying in the world, and should their archipelagos not completely submerge, it’s likely that rising sea levels and extreme saltwater flooding will permanently damage freshwater supplies and destroy agriculture, making them uninhabitable. The Maldives and Seychelles in the Indian Ocean face the same risks.
But at a three-day discussion on their legal options at Columbia University, wrapping up today, scholars are pointing out ways that these states can still maintain an identity and international legal authority, even as they lose all their habitable territory. More >>>
Location: Cayman Islands