West News Wire: In light of recent data showing that sea levels have increased quickly since 1900, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has issued a warning about the threat that rising sea levels pose to hundreds of millions of people who live in low-lying coastal areas and small island states.
In a forceful speech to the first UN Security Council discussion on the effects of rising sea levels on international peace and security, Guterres stated that not only were large cities like Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Jakarta, Lagos, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Maputo, New York, and Shanghai threatened, but so were nations like Bangladesh, China, India, and the Netherlands.
“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 which, according to NASA, has resulted in Antarctica shedding some 150 billion tonnes of ice mass each year on average, Guterres said. Greenland’s ice cap is shrinking even faster and losing 270 billion tonnes per year.
“The global ocean has warmed faster over the past century than at any time in the past 11,000 years,” the UN chief said.
“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 said.
Developing countries, in particular, must have the resources to adapt to a rapidly changing world and that means ensuring the $100bn climate finance commitment to developing countries is delivered, Guterres said.
The UN chief offered examples of the effect of a warming planet and rising sea levels on communities and countries stretching from the Pacific to the Himalayan river basins.
Ice melting in the Himalayas has already worsened flooding in Pakistan, he said. But as the Himalayan glaciers recede in the coming decades, the mighty Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers will shrink. Hundreds of millions of people living in the river basins of the Himalayas will suffer the effects of both rising sea levels and the intrusion of saltwater, Guterres said.
“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.
The meeting of the Security Council heard speakers from some 75 countries all voicing concern about the effect of rising sea waters, the Associated Press reported.
Speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, Samoa’s UN ambassador Fatumanava-o-Upolu III Pa’olelei Luteru said alliance members were among the lowest to emit the greenhouse gases that had caused global warming and climate change.