My two-year, 26-country journey to the frontlines of the climate battle

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It was a climate summit that made Mohamed Nasheed a star. Ahead of the UN’s annual COP conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the president of the Maldives grabbed headlines worldwide by chairing an underwater cabinet meeting, with ministers attending in scuba gear. The stunt was intended to highlight the serious danger that, if carbon emissions continued at the same rate, the Maldives’ 1,000-plus atoll islands would be entirely submerged by a rising ocean.

Copenhagen was the first COP (Conference of the Parties) to take place during the presidency of Barack Obama, who had pledged to halt the world’s slide towards climate catastrophe. Many hoped for an unprecedented international breakthrough in the Danish capital. Amid this atmosphere, the diminutive Nasheed made an outsized impact. Addressing a crowd of cheering activists, he declared, “I am here to tell you that we refuse to give up hope . . . we refuse to believe that a better world…

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