In a catastrophic year for the climate crisis, were there any heroes? At Copenhagen, world leaders gathered to peer at the swelling evidence that we are close to irreparably trashing the planet's biosphere – and they offered a glib shrug. From the US to the EU to China, nobody offered to cut carbon emissions by the levels scientists say are necessary to stay this side of the climate's Point of No Return. Since then, there has been a regression into denialism across the world. The search for wise leaders in this is difficult, but a handful of politicians will be remembered for trying to do the right thing.
The most inspiring leader was Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives. He has bled and nearly died for his island nation in the Indian Ocean. In his peaceful resistance against the islands' dictatorship, he was jailed and tortured – only to become its first democratic president in 2008. Yet it looked like it could become a sunken victory: the low-lying Maldives are drowning as sea-levels rise. By the end of this century, at current rates, they will be an Atlantis. "We are on the world's front line," he says. "And, in a sense, its only hope." To alert the world, he even staged a cabinet meeting underwater in scuba gear.
Nasheed has not only offered a warning, however; he has offered an alternative. Within 10 years, his country will become the first ever carbon-free country, running entirely on renewable energy sources. He warns that we all have to make this transition – and fast. "The last generation of humans went to the moon," he says. "This generation of humans needs to decide if it wants to stay alive on planet earth."
Johann Hari is a columnist for The IndependentReuse content