The Maldives, an upmarket beach paradise for tourists, has also become a symbol of the dangers of climate change.
Made up of hundreds of islands in the Indian Ocean, it is one of the most low-lying nations in the world, and exceptionally vulnerable to rising seas.
Some scientists have said the Maldives could disappear within decades, and former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed even proposed relocating all 350,000 inhabitants to other countries.
While other researchers say those fears may have been overblown, the country is taking measures to protect itself.
A seawall was built around the capital, Male, after flooding in the 1980s. That wall protected the city from the worst effects of the devastating 2004 tsunami, which temporarily put large swaths of the country under water.
The country’s climate adaptation plans call for relocating residents from small vulnerable islands to bigger, better protected ones.
It is also creating new land through land reclamation, expanding existing islands or building new ones, to ease overcrowding. The reclaimed land is being elevated to better withstand rising seas.
Even before the consequences of climate change became evident, scientists were well aware that Bangkok — whose southern suburbs border the Gulf of Thailand — was under serious threat from land subsidence.
Sea level rise projections show Bangkok could be at risk of inundation in 100 years unless preventive measures are taken, but when the capital and its outskirts were affected in 2011 by the worst flooding in half a century, the immediate trigger was water runoff from the north, where dams failed to hold very heavy rains.
Industrial areas in the capital’s suburbs, housing important businesses, were devastated, so the focus was put on a short-term solution for that area.
The government recently announced winning bids totaling 290.9 billion baht (US$9.38 million) by Chinese, South Korean and Thai firms to run the flood and water management schemes, including the construction of reservoirs, floodways and barriers.
Solutions to the problem of rising seas are still being studied.
“Construction alone is not sustainable,” says Seree Supratid, director of a climate and disaster center at Rangsit University. “People have to adapt to nature. For example, you know Bangkok will be flooded by the rising seas in the next 100 years, then you have to learn to build your houses in a way the floodwater cannot reach it, putting it up high or something.”
Officials recently finished a study of the effects of climate change on this island’s 5,630km of coastline, and their discoveries were so alarming they did not immediately share the results with the public to avoid causing panic.
According to the report, which The Associated Press obtained exclusively, rising sea levels would seriously damage 122 Cuban towns or even wipe them off the map by 2100. Scientists found that kilometers of beaches would be submerged, while freshwater sources would be tainted and croplands rendered infertile. In all, seawater would penetrate up to 2km inland in low-lying areas, as oceans rose nearly 85cm.