Earlier this week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned that Earth faces a climate "catastrophe" if greenhouse gas emissions aren't curbed soon. His remarks, made at the Major Economies Forum in London, came in anticipation of the UN meeting on climate in Copenhagen this December.
Nations must cut emissions substantially by 2020 in order to avoid economic meltdowns of the sort outlined in the Stern Report, Brown said. He also urged world leaders, many of whom don't plan to attend the UN meeting, to show up.
''There are now fewer than 50 days to set the course of the next few decades,'' Brown said. ''We cannot afford to fail. If we fail now, we will pay a heavy price ... If we falter, the Earth will itself be at risk.''
Brown's remarks came on the heels of what may be the world's first cabinet meeting held entirely under water.
Decked out in scuba gear and accompanied by scuba-diving military personnel and dive instructors — members of the media snorkeled at the surface — the officials spent half an hour at a desk on the floor of a blue-green lagoon. The stunt was meant to bring attention to the islands' plight. With an average altitude of 7 feet above sea level, the Maldives have much to lose if sea levels rise due to global warming.
"We're now actually trying to send our message, let the world know what is happening, and what will happen to the Maldives if climate change is not checked."
He added: "If the Maldives cannot be saved today we do not feel that there is much of a chance for the rest of the world."
On Monday, the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable meeting, a conference of 14 Pacific nations and territories threatened by sea level rise, commenced on the Marshall Islands.
Patrick Nunn, a scientist at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, and chair of the meetings, told the AFP that, if climate change isn't checked, many South Pacific islands would become uninhabitable. Part of the conference's purpose is to begin thinking about a Plan B: what South Pacific Islanders will do if sea levels rise.
"The biggest challenge is getting policy makers to understand the need for a profound change in the way Pacific people live," Nunn told AFP.
For many, the idea of having to flee their respective homelands seems unreal — or perhaps surreal. "Relocation is one of the most difficult things to talk about and to convince people that the home they've lived in for centuries is no longer a viable option," Nunn said.