UN Chief: Rising sea levels could see entire countries disappear

Without action “a mass exodus of entire populations” could be on the cards, Mr Guterres said

Big Zero Report 2023

Rising sea levels could see entire communities and countries consigned to history.

That’s according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who spoke to the Security Council on Tuesday.

Coastlines in some nations have already witnessed triple the average rate of sea level rise – and if nothing is done the world “would witness a mass exodus of entire populations on a biblical scale and we would see ever-fiercer competition for fresh water, land and other resources,” he said.

Since 1900, global sea levels have risen at a quicker rate than at any point in the last 3,000 years, according to research by the World Meteorological Organisation.

Even if the aims of the Paris Agreement – to limit global warming to 1.5°C – are met, certain parts of the world will still face the consequences of human-induced climate change, Mr Guterres stressed.

One in ten people on Earth – some 900 million – living in coastal areas will be forced to relocate and lose their communities.

Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands were listed as places where people were already being forced to emigrate, with their communities endangered.

He explained that in less than 80 years it will be likely that up to 400 million people will need new homes but “people’s human rights do not disappear because their homes do.”

Csaba Kőrösi, President of the General Assembly, continued on from Mr Guterres’ points, calling rising sea levels “the greatest challenge of our generation” and stating “what is needed now – as ever – is the political will to act.”

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