Climate change is the single problems common to all nations, regardless of location or size of economy. Yet, no other group of nations is more vulnerable to its devastating effects than the Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
The SIDS and the AOSIS
The SIDS were acknowledged at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Governments agreed that concerted action was needed to address development for the sake of future generations. Although the SIDS are among the least responsible of all nations for climate change, they are/will be the first group of nations to face one of the most devastating adverse effects of climate change, sea-level rise. Some scientific studies show that they and could in some cases even become uninhabitable. This is what makes them such a special case requiring the help and attention of the international community.
Maldives is one of the small states. We are not in a position to change the course of events in the world. But what you do or do not do here will greatly influence the fate of my people. It can also change the course of world history.”
- Maunmoon Abdul Gayoom at COP 3
In order to raise awareness and showcase the upcoming problems that will be faced first by these small nations, the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS) was founded in 1991. The AOSIS is a coalition of small island and low-lying coastal countries that share similar development challenges and concerns about the environment, especially their vulnerability to the adverse effects of global climate change. It functions primarily as an ad hoc lobby and negotiating voice for the SIDS within the United Nations system. AOSIS has a membership of 44 States, and the SIDS communities constitute some five percent of the global population.
The Threat: Sea-Level Rise
According to the IPCC , because of their low elevation and small size, many small island states are threatened with partial or virtually total inundation by future rises in sea level. In addition, increased intensity or frequency of cyclones could harm many of these islands. The existence or well-being of many small island states is mainly threatened by climate change and sea-level rise over the next century and beyond.
Sea-level rise will pose a serious threat to the ecosystems, economy, and, in some cases, existence of many small island states. Among the most vulnerable of these island states are the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tonga, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Cook Islands (in the Pacific Ocean); Antigua and Nevis (in the Caribbean Sea); and the Maldives (in the Indian Ocean). Small island states may face the following types of impacts from sea-level rise and climate change.
The SIDS will be the first face the effects of global warming and sea-level rise, but, as stated in the latest IPCC report, if all countries do not act together, the effects will come for all. Sea-level rise does not simply mean that coastal cities will have their sand regions gradually conquered by sea water, it also means the contamination of groundwater supplies by salt water, overflowing of sewage systems, bio-chemical changes in land close to the ocean, etc. It is an urgent problems for the SIDS, but it will soon become urgent for us all.