GIRIFUSHI, Maldives - Members of the Maldives' Cabinet donned scuba gear and used hand signals Saturday at an underwater meeting staged to highlight the threat of global warming to the lowest-lying nation on earth.
President Mohammed Nasheed and 13 other officials submerged and took their seats at a table on the seafloor - 20 feet below the surface of a lagoon off Girifushi, an island usually used for military training.
With a backdrop of coral, the meeting was a bid to draw attention to fears that rising sea levels caused by the melting of polar ice caps could swamp this Indian Ocean archipelago within a century. Its islands, with a population of 350,000, average 7 feet above sea level.
"What we are trying to make people realize is that the Maldives is a frontline state. This is not merely an issue for the Maldives but for the world," Nasheed said.
As bubbles floated up from their face masks, the president, vice president, Cabinet secretary and 11 ministers signed a document calling on all countries to cut their carbon dioxide emissions. Nasheed has promised to make the Maldives, about 450 miles southwest of Sri Lanka, the world's first carbon-neutral nation within a decade.