The Midmorning Refill: Will island nations cease to exist after the oceans rise?

Today’s Flickr photo

Tabi, an indigenous community affected by climate change. Flickr photo by Oxfam International.

If you read one thing today . . .

Here’s an interesting question to ponder: What happens to the island nations that get swallowed up by the rising oceans because of global warming? Do the nations cease to exist? Do they lose their seats at the United Nations? Charles J. Hanley reporting from the U.N. climate conference in Cancun, Mexico ponders the dilemma in the Huffington Post.

From 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometers) away, the people of the Marshalls – and of Kiribati, Tuvalu and other atoll nations beyond – can only wonder how many more years they’ll be able to cope.

“People who built their homes close to shore, all they can do is get more rocks to rebuild the seawall in front day by day,” said Kaminaga, who is in Cancun with the Marshallese delegation to the U.N. talks.

The Marshallese government is looking beyond today, however, to those ultimate questions of nationhood, displacement and rights.

“We’re facing a set of issues unique in the history of the system of nation-states,” Dean Bialek, a New York-based adviser to the Republic of the Marshall Islands who is also in Cancun, told The Associated Press. “We’re confronting existential issues associated with climate impacts that are not adequately addressed in the international legal framework.”

Overheard:

President Obama’s decision to compromise cave on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy has pushed some progressives in Congress to the breaking point, report Politico’s Jonathan Allen and Josh Gerstein. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) said the fight over the tax cuts could define Obama.

“They’re bullying him. For the country’s sake, he’s got to stand up,” said [McDermott], who worked as psychiatrist in the Navy. “It’s setting the standard for the next two years.”