Rising sea levels could threaten the existence of small island states such as Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and the Maldives. If the international community cannot or will not slow global warming, the least it can do is help those states prepare for life after land by recognizing a new category of state — the deterritorialised state, writes Rosemary Rayfuse for the New York Times.
“If we do nothing and these nations become uninhabitable, their citizens will not only become displaced persons seeking refuge in other countries; they will also lose control of their vast maritime zones, including valuable fisheries and mineral deposits, which will likely become the property of neighboring states or the global commons.
“A few solutions have already been offered. Disappearing states could try to acquire territory from another state. However, no other government is likely to give up some of its land, no matter the price. The construction of artificial islands has also been proposed, but the financial, engineering, cultural and legal challenges may be insurmountable. The best scenario under current international law appears to be for disappearing states to enter into some form of federation with another state. However, a merger would threaten their cultural identities and likely oblige them to relinquish control over their resources.”