Mega Cities Like Mumbai, New York Likely To Face Serious Impacts From Rising Sea Levels: UN

The UN chief noted that global average sea levels have risen faster since 1900 than over any preceding century in the last 3,000 years and the global ocean has warmed faster over the past century than at any time in the past 11,000 years.

A representative image of Mumbai.

Mega cities like Mumbai and New York will face serious impacts from rising sea levels, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned on Tuesday, as he exhorted the global community to address climate crisis, which he said is the "root cause of rising seas." "Rising seas are sinking futures. Sea-level rise is not only a threat in itself. It is a threat-multiplier. For the hundreds of millions of people living in small island developing states and other low-lying coastal areas around the world, sea-level rise is a torrent of trouble," Guterres said at the UN Security Council debate on 'Sea-Level Rise- Implications for International Peace and Security.' He asserted that rising seas threaten the very existence of some low-lying communities and even countries.

He noted that global average sea levels have risen faster since 1900 than over any preceding century in the last 3,000 years and the global ocean has warmed faster over the past century than at any time in the past 11,000 years.

Guterres said that according to the World Meteorological Organisation, even if global heating is "miraculously" limited to 1.5 degrees, there will still be a sizeable sea level rise.

"But every fraction of a degree counts. If temperatures rise by 2 degrees, that level rise could double, with further temperature increases bringing exponential sea level increases. Under any scenario, countries like Bangladesh, China, India and the Netherlands are all at risk," he said.

"Mega-cities on every continent will face serious impacts including Cairo, Lagos, Maputo, Bangkok, Dhaka, Jakarta, Mumbai, Shanghai, Copenhagen, London, Los Angeles, New York, Buenos Aires and Santiago," he warned.

The UN chief underscored that the danger is especially acute for nearly 900 million people who live in coastal zones at low elevations - that's one out of ten people on earth, with some coastlines have already seen triple the average rate of sea-level rise.

With the impact of rising seas already creating new sources of instability and conflict, Guterres told the meeting that the international community must meet this rising tide of insecurity with urgent action, particularly addressing the root cause of rising seas, the climate crisis.

"Our world is hurtling past the 1.5-degree warming limit that a livable future requires, and with present policies, is careening towards 2.8 degrees - a death sentence for vulnerable countries. We urgently need more concerted action to reduce emissions and ensure climate justice," he said.

"Among other things, this means delivering on the loss and damage fund, making good on the USD 100-billion climate finance commitment to developing countries, doubling adaptation finance, and leveraging massive private financing at a reasonable cost," he said.

Guterres added that it is important to broaden "our understanding of the root causes of insecurity.

"That means identifying and addressing a much wider range of factors that undermine security - from poverty, discrimination and inequality, violations of human rights, to environmental disasters like rising sea levels." Guterres also underlined the need to address the impacts of rising seas across legal and human rights frameworks.

"Rising sea levels are - literally - shrinking landmasses, a cause of possible disputes related to territorial integrity and maritime spaces," he said.

He added that the current legal regime must look to the future and address any gaps in existing frameworks.

"Yes, this means international refugee law. But is also means innovative legal and practical solutions to address the impact of rising sea levels on forced human displacement and on the very existence of the land territory of some states," he said.

"People's human rights do not disappear because their homes do....We must keep working to protect affected populations and secure their essential human rights." The UN chief said the Security Council has a critical role to play in building the political will required to address the devastating security challenges arising from rising seas.

"We must all work to continue turning up the volume on this critical issue, and supporting the lives, livelihoods and communities of people living on the front lines of this crisis," he added.