ocean warming


The UN chief warns that rising seas pose a threat to “mass exodus on a biblical scale.”

As climate change-driven rise brings “torrent of trouble” to nearly a billion people, António Guterres calls for immediate action.

The UN secretary general has issued a warning that an increase in the rate at which sea levels rise poses a threat to “a mass exodus of entire populations on a biblical scale.”

António Guterres stated on Tuesday that the climate crisis is causing sea levels to rise faster than they have in 3,000 years, bringing a “torrent of trouble” to nearly a billion people, from London to Los Angeles, Bangkok to Buenos Aires. He asserted that the waves could wipe out some nations.

In his address to the UN Security Council, Guterres stated that new international laws were required to safeguard the homeless and even the stateless, as well as to address issues like poverty that exacerbate the effects of rising sea levels on communities. He stated that sea level rise was a threat multiplier with “dramatic implications” for global peace and security due to its impact on lives, economies, and infrastructure.

With the current levels of global warming, significant sea level rise is already inevitable, but the consequences of failing to address the issue are “unthinkable.” Guterres stated, It is possible for entire nations and low-lying communities to vanish forever. On a biblical scale, we would witness a massive exodus of entire populations. Additionally, there would be ever-increasing competition for land, fresh water, and other resources.

“People’s human rights do not disappear because their homes do,” he said. “Yes, this means international refugee law.”

The legal situation is being evaluated by the International Law Commission. The UN human rights committee decided in 2020 that it was against the law for governments to send people back to countries where the climate crisis could endanger their lives.

Sea levels are rising rapidly and the global ocean has warmed faster than at any time in the last 11,000 years, according to new data from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Sea levels rise as glaciers and ice caps melt and warmer water expands.

Prof Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary general, said: “Sea level rise imposes risks to economies, livelihoods, settlements, health, wellbeing, food and water security and cultural values in the near to long term.”

Guterres said: “Even if global heating is miraculously limited to 1.5C, there will still be a sizeable sea level rise.” A sea level rise of about 50cm by 2100 is likely, but the WMO said there would be a 2-3 metre rise over the next 2,000 years if heating were limited to 1.5C, and 2-6m if it were limited to 2C. A UN report in October said there was “no credible pathway to 1.5C in place”. Current national targets, if met, would mean a 2.4C rise in temperature.



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