As new data shows that sea levels have increased quickly since 1900, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of the threat presented by rising sea levels to hundreds of millions of people living in low-lying coastal areas and small island states.
Guterres warned countries such as Bangladesh, China, India, and the Netherlands, as well as major cities such as Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Jakarta, Lagos, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Maputo, New York, and Shanghai, in a stern address to the first UN Security Council debate on the implications of rising sea levels for international peace and security.
“The danger is especially acute for nearly 900 million people who live in coastal zones at low elevations — that’s one out of 10 people on Earth,” he told the council on Tuesday.
Climate change is heating the planet and melting glaciers and ice sheets, causing Antarctica to lose 150 billion tonnes of ice mass each year on average, according to NASA, Guterres added. Greenland’s ice cap is melting faster than ever, losing 270 billion tonnes each year. “The global ocean has warmed faster over the past century than at any time in the past 11,000 years,” the UN Secretary-General remarked.
“Our world is hurtling past the 1.5-degree warming limit that a liveable future requires and, with present policies, is careening towards 2.8 degrees – a death sentence for vulnerable countries,” he added.
Developing nations, in particular, require resources to adapt to a fast changing world, and this includes ensuring that the $100 billion climate finance promise to developing countries is met, according to Guterres. The UN Secretary-General provided instances of how a warming world and increasing sea levels are affecting communities and countries from the Pacific to the Himalayan river basins.
According to him, melting Himalayan ice has already exacerbated flooding in Pakistan. The great Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra rivers will diminish as the Himalayan glaciers disappear in the next decades. Hundreds of millions of people living in the Himalayan river basins will be affected by rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion, according to Guterres.
“We see similar threats in the Mekong Delta and beyond. The consequences of all of this are unthinkable. Low-lying communities and entire countries could disappear forever,” he said.
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