By: Andrew Orozco
This week, it was my turn to lead the class discussion leading up to Paris, and I chose to talk about SIDS. No, SID is not a person, and SIDS is not some kind of crazy disease no has ever heard of. In fact SIDS stands for Small Island Developing States.
In recent decades, these small island nations have experienced deeply intensified effects of climate change due to their extreme vulnerability. Located basically at sea level, these islands have felt the sting of rising oceans, severe weather events (tornadoes), and warming temperatures and levels of CO2, which has played a key role in decimating coral reefs.
This photo, taken from an article about the impending coral bleaching crisis in Hawaii, shows the immense damage warmer temperatures and heightened pH levels can cause to coral reefs, one of the world’s greatest supporters of biodiversity and ecotourism.
One example discussed in class surrounded the struggle of the Maldives, a chain of about 1200 small islands in the Indian Ocean, of which about 200 are inhabited. On average, the entirety of the Maldives lays 4ft and 11 inches above sea level. In recent years, the Maldivian dry season has increased from a regular 3-month period to an astounding 5-month span. In response to this, many of the inhabited islands have experienced severe shortages of freshwater and the President has been forced to rent a cargo ship to transport emergency freshwater to the inhabitants of these islands.
Looking forward to Paris, the Maldives and 43 other small island nations have banded together in a group called AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) and hope to urge the world’s developed countries to set a common warming goal at below 1.5 degrees Celsius (that’s like 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). In order to achieve this ambitious goal, they have coined the popular phrase “1.5 to stay alive”. However, despite considerable backing by major leaders of the Buddhist faith, certain developing states, as well as many of the world’s civil society and environmental organizations, achieving this goal seems increasingly daunting due to the firm commitment to a minimum warming of 2 degrees Celsius made by the massively influential developed states such as the US, China, the UK, Russia, and more.
I encourage everyone reading this to follow the SIDS in the weeks leading up to the Conference, as they are going to be a huge part of this potential agreement. They may not have caused climate change, but they sure do have the most to lose.
If you are interested in learning more about the impending coral bleaching event or other events like it, feel free to follow this link: