The man from the middle of the Indian Ocean, from one of the tiniest of nations, told his fellow Presidents he knew “you are not really listening.”

But a desperate Mohammed Nasheed of the Maldives, a scattering of islands amid the rising seas of global warming, took to the podium nonetheless at yesterday’s UN climate summit to urge his global neighbours, after “20 years of complacency,” to “seize the historic opportunity that sits at the end of the road to Copenhagen.”

That opportunity in Copenhagen, at a pivotal negotiating conference this December, is a chance to forge a comprehensive new accord to combat climate change. But increasingly Mr. Nasheed’s road seems likely to stretch beyond the Danish capital, and beyond 2009, as world governments grapple with this immensely complex and volatile issue.

Some 100 heads of state and government took part in the one-day summit, the largest ever to deal with global warming.

They heard from Mr. Nasheed and leaders of other states threatened with flooding, drought and other expected impacts of a warming world. “If things go as usual, we will not live.

We will die,” the Maldivian said of his low-lying islands, a nation of 300,000 people.

Summit participants heard, too, from U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders of other industrialised nations, who spoke of their determination to take new steps to halt climate change.