The Pentagon knows it. The world's largest insurers know it. Now, governments may be overthrown because of it. It is climate change, and it is real. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last month was the hottest March on record for the United States since 1895, when records were first kept, with average temperatures of 8.6 degrees F above average. More than 15,000 March high-temperature records were broken nationally. Drought, wildfires, tornadoes, and other extreme weather events are already plaguing the country.
Across the world in the Maldives, rising sea levels continue to threaten this Indian Ocean archipelago. It is the world's lowest-lying nation, on average only 4.3 feet above sea level. The plight of the Maldives gained global prominence when its young president, the first ever democratically elected there, Mohamed Nasheed, became one of the world's leading voices against climate change, especially in the lead-up to the 2009 U.N. climate change summit in Copenhagen. Nasheed held a ministerial meeting underwater, with his cabinet in scuba gear, to illustrate the potential disaster.
In February, Nasheed was ousted from his presidency at gunpoint. The Obama administration, through State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, said of the coup d'etat: "This was handled constitutionally." When I spoke to Nasheed last month, he told me: "It was really shocking and deeply disturbing that the United States government so instantly recognized the former dictatorship coming back again. The European governments have not recognized the new regime in the Maldives." There is a parallel between national positions on climate change and support or opposition to the Maldives coup.