The president of the Maldives captured the media's attention last week when he held a cabinet meeting underwater claiming that his island-nation faces disaster from rising sea-levels attributed to man-made global warming. But Nils-Axel Mörner, a sea-level expert from Sweden, wrote to the president explaining that he has nothing to worry about in the following letter:
October 20, 2009
To: President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives
From: Nils-Axel Mörner, Stockholm, Sweden
You have recently held an undersea Cabinet meeting to raise awareness of the idea that global sea level is rising and hence threatens to drown the Maldives. This proposition is not founded in observational facts and true scientific judgments.
Therefore, I am most surprised at your action and must protest its intended message.
In 2001, when our research group found overwhelming evidence that sea level was by no means in a rising mode in the Maldives, but had remained quite stable for the last 30 years, I thought it would not be respectful to the fine people of the Maldives if I were to return home and present our results in international fora. Therefore, I announced this happy news during an interview for your local TV station. However, your predecessor as president censored and stopped the broadcast.
When you became president, I was hoping both for democracy and for dialogue. However, I have written to you twice without reply. Your people ought not to have to suffer a constant claim that there is no future for them on their own islands. This terrible message is deeply inappropriate, since it is founded not upon reality but upon an imported concept, which lacks scientific justification and is thus untenable. There is simply no rational basis for it.
Let me summarize a few facts.
(1) In the last 2000 years, sea level has oscillated with 5 peaks reaching 0.6 to 1.2 m above the present sea level.
(2) From 1790 to 1970 sea level was about 20 cm higher than today
(3) In the 1970s, sea level fell by about 20 cm to its present level
(4) Sea level has remained stable for the last 30 years, implying that there are no traces of any alarming on-going sea level rise.
(5) Therefore, we are able to free the Maldives (and the rest of low-lying coasts and island around the globe) from the condemnation of becoming flooded in the near future.
When I was president for the INQUA commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution, we spent much effort on the question of present-to-future sea level changes. After intensive field studies, deliberation within the commission and discussions at five international meetings, we agreed on a “best estimate” for possible sea level changes by the year 2100. Our figure was +10 cm ±10 cm. This figure was later revised at +5 cm ±15cm (as given in Fig. 1). Such changes would imply small to negligible effects.
Such a small rise would pose no threat for the Maldives. Rather, it would be a natural return to the conditions existing from 1790 to 1970; i.e. to the position before the sea level fall in the 1970s.
So, Mr. President, when you ignore available observational facts, refuse a normal democratic dialogue, and continue to menace your people with the imaginary threat of a disastrous flooding already in progress, I think you are doing a serious mistake.
Let us, for Heaven’s sake, lift the terrible psychological burden that you and your predecessor have placed upon the shoulders of all people in the Maldives, who are now living with the imagined threat that flooding will soon drive them from their homes, a wholly false notion that is nothing but an armchair fiction artificially constructed by mere computer modeling constantly proven wrong by meticulous real-world observations.
Your cabinet meeting under the water is nothing but a misdirected gimmick or PR stunt. Al Gore is a master in such cheap techniques. But such misconduct is dishonest, unproductive and certainly most un-scientific.
Head of Paleogeophysics & Geodynamics at Stockholm University, Sweden (1991-2005); President of the INQUA Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution (1999-2003); Leader of the Maldives Sea Level Project (2000 on); Chairman of the INTAS project on Geomagnetism and Climate (1997-2003).