On the 17th of October, 2009, President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives did something unusual. He held his cabinet meeting underwater. He literally took his ministers scuba diving, as it were, to warn the world that his country could drown unless we control global warming.
Now I don’t know whether he got his message across to the world or not, but he certainly caught mine. I saw a political stunt.
You see, I’m a politician, and I notice these things. And let’s be honest, the Maldives are distant from where I come from — my country is Bhutan — so I didn’t lose any sleep over their impending fate.
Barely two months later, I saw another political stunt. This time, the Prime Minister of Nepal, he held his cabinet meeting on Mount Everest. He took all his ministers all the way up to the base camp of Everest to warn the world that the Himalayan glaciers were melting.
Now did that worry me? You bet it did.
I live in the Himalayas. But did I lose any sleep over his message? No. I wasn’t ready to let a political stunt interfere with my beauty sleep.
Now fast-forward 10 years. In February this year, I saw this report. This here report basically concludes that one-third of the ice on the Hindu Kush Himalaya mountains could melt by the end of the century. But that’s only if — if we are able to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade over preindustrial levels.
Otherwise, if we can’t, the glaciers would melt much faster. 1.5 degrees Celsius. “No way,” I thought. Even the Paris Agreement’s ambitious targets aimed to limit global warming to two degrees centigrade. 1.5 degrees centigrade is what they call the best-case scenario.