Climate Change Is An 'Existential Threat' and 'We Are Not Prepared to Die,' Maldives Tells U.N. Conference

The Maldives has urged the world to unite to fight climate change, pointing out that its peoples' very survival is dependent on global action to address the dire crisis.

Mohamed Nasheed, the head of the Indian Ocean nation's delegation at the U.N. climate talks in Poland, said on Thursday that Maldivians would do everything within their power to keep their "heads above water," Reuters reported. With rapidly accelerating global temperatures, sea levels are rising around the planet, meaning islands like those comprising the Maldives could disappear.

"We are not prepared to die. We are not going to become the first victims of the climate crisis," Nasheed told the international conference. "Climate change is a national security issue for us. It is an existential threat," he pointed out, adding that a rise in global temperatures could still be avoided if countries unite to address the challenge.

A jetty leading to an island from water villas on February 2, 2016, in Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi, Maldives. Mohamed Nasheed, the head of the Indian Ocean nation’s delegation at the United Nations climate talks in Poland, said on Thursday that Maldivians would do everything within their power to keep their “heads above water.” Giulio Di Sturco/Getty Images

The Maldivian leader previously spoke at the U.N. climate summit back in 2009. However, he warned that he has seen little change in the global response since then.

"Almost 10 years since I was last at these climate negotiations, I must say, nothing much seems to have changed," Nasheed warned. "Carbon emissions are rising, rising and rising and all we seem to be doing is talking, talking and talking," he said.

Instead of addressing climate change, President Donald Trump has consistently denied well-established science and predictions warning of impending catastrophe if the U.S. and other nations don't seriously curb emissions. At the start of the Poland conference, the Trump administration allied itself with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in refusing to welcome a landmark report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The document warned that Earth only has until 2030 before warming reaches a level that will lead to mass food shortages and other catastrophic problems, unless significant reforms are implemented.

Trump told reporters last month that he did not "believe" findings laid out in a climate report put together by his own administration. That research warned that environmental changes could cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century, while decreasing GDP by about 10 percent. In June of last year, the president also announced that he would withdraw the U.S. from the landmark Paris Climate Accords. Every other nation in the world has signed the international treaty, leaving Washington completely isolated internationally.

President Donald Trump greets Vice President Mike Pence before announcing his decision for the United States to pull out of the Paris climate agreement at the White House on June 1, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Although the White House may not be concerned about the Maldives or the economic impact of climate change on the U.S. within the coming decades, scientists and activists continue to push back with facts and information. But in an era of corporate lobbyists and the Trump administration's "alternative facts," they face an uphill battle.

"Sadly, scientists have only moral power," Dr. Stephan Singer, a senior advisor for global energy policies at Climate Action Network International, told Newsweek. "Trump, the majority of the Republicans and the White House are in the hand of the mighty fossil fuel industry in the U.S.," he said. "This is a tragedy."

Singer expressed hope that Americans would elect a different president in two years who would return to the international table to actively address the growing crisis. He said that Washington should "take the immediate and appropriate steps at home to cut the CO2 emissions [and] phase-out coal," while acknowledging "the special responsibility of the U.S. as the historically largest atmospheric carbon polluter."