People decide to move for many reasons — to obtain a larger house, to reside in a safer neighborhood, or even to escape the neighbor’s yapping Akita that just won’t shut up. But in the Maldives, residents may be moving for a different reason: Climate change.

The Maldives, a nation made up of about 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean, is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change like rising oceans because the majority of its islands are only a few feet above sea level. As the world continues to heat up, the Maldives’ 400,000 residents could find themselves without a home.

This sobering situation is what’s caused Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives’ newly elected president, to start investing in the nation’s future: Nasheed’s establishing a fund using tourism dollars to buy new land in other countries to relocate Maldivians if the nation gets flooded. Hopefully Nasheed can stash away a tidy sum as tourism is huge in the Maldives, especially amongst honeymooners.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Nasheed’s spokeman, Ibrahim Hussein Zaki, said that the new government had to take action. “Global warming and environmental issues are issues of major concern to the Maldivian people,” he said on the BBC’s “World Today” program. “We are just about three feet above sea level. So any sea level rise could have a devastating effect on the people of the Maldives and their very survival.


In its latest report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations projected that sea levels worldwide could rise up to two feet by 2100 as ice sheets eroded and warming seawater expanded. But the panel and independent climate specialists said even higher levels were possible and centuries of rising seas could follow if warming persisted.

The beleaguered Maldives already take beatings from inclement weather like storms and rough waves, despite protections like sea walls. The 2004 tsunami wreaked havoc on the nation, totally submerging several islands. Adding climate change into the equation (which is expected to bring fiercer storms and rising sea levels), Maldivians seem to really be up the Ganges without a paddle.

Nasheed added that possible relocation spots could include India or Sri Lanka. If Maldivians do indeed flee their flooded islands, they’ll join a growing number of climate refugees — citizens who are forced to leave their home nations because of environmental changes brought on by global warming. Other nations that may soon produce climate refugees include the Carteret Islands (residents began evacuating in 2009) and Tuvalu.

Just another example of how carbon-spewing industrialized nations are really sticking it to the little guys.

Story by Sarah Parsons. This article originally appeared in Plenty in November 2008. The story was added to

Copyright Environ Press 2008