located IN THE Central Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a country composed of more than 1,190 low lying coral islands, many of which contain a large number of endemic species. With no coal, oil, or natural gas reserves, the country is reliant on imported oil and domestic wood resources to meet the majority of its energy needs. As a result, the Maldives is not a major producer of greenhouse gases and is not a significant contributor to climate change. Despite this, the Maldives, like other small island developing states, is likely to be greatly affected by climate change.

The Maldives faces many of the development challenges confronting other small island states. These include geographic isolation, dependence on tourism, and reliance on coastal and marine resources. In addition, though the country's population is small in absolute terms, many of the islands have high population densities and the country's population is distributed among various islands. While these characteristics represent obstacles to economic development, they also render the country vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, particularly as the country has limited resources with which to offset its impacts.

Given its relatively large coastline, the Maldives is vulnerable to an array of marine threats such as wave surges, tropical storms, and coastal erosion. These natural phenomena are expected to increase in severity or frequency as a result of climate change and are therefore a source of growing concern. However, it is sea-level rise that poses the greatest threat to the Maldives. With a maximum elevation of 7.8 ft. (2.4 m.) above sea level, small fluctuations in sea level could render much of the country uninhabitable as a result of inundation and saltwater infiltration into agricultural soils and groundwater resources, necessitating the relocation of many of the country's inhabitants.

threat to its existence

The population and government of the Maldives have long been aware of the threat that climate change and sea-level rise in particular pose to their country. In numerous statements, the president of the Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, has pleaded with the international community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, in his 1992 speech at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom highlighted that global climate change threatened the very existence of his country and that global concerted action was required to save the Maldives and other low lying countries. However, given the Mal-dives's modest political influence, the government's ability to bring about such reductions is limited. In addition, the Maldives has been actively involved in the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a lobbying and negotiating body representing the needs of small island developing states at the level of the UN. Through AOSIS, the Maldives has continued to lobby for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions globally.

sEE ALsO: Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS); Hurricanes and Typhoons; Sea Level, Rising.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Fathimath Ghina, "Sustainable Development in Small Island Developing States: The Case of the Maldives," Environment, Development and Sustainability (v.5, 2003).

KlERAN MOONEY Concordia University

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