Energy & Environment

UN chief: Rising seas could spark ‘mass exodus of entire populations on a biblical scale’

AP Photo/Dita Alangkara, File
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, that even if global warming is “miraculously” limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), there will still be a sizable sea level rise.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned on Tuesday that rising sea levels due to climate change could spark a “mass exodus of entire populations” and increase the potential for conflict.

“The impact of rising seas is already creating new sources of instability and conflict,” Guterres said at a U.N. Security Council discussion, adding, “We 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.”

The global sea level has risen eight to nine inches since 1880 and continues to rise at an increasing rate, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. By the end of the century, water levels are expected to have risen at least one foot even if carbon emissions remain relatively low.

Guterres said that rising sea levels threaten access to water, food and health care, and can destroy vital infrastructure and entire industries.

“Rising seas are sinking futures,” he added on Tuesday. “Sea level rise is not only a threat in itself. It is a threat multiplier.” 

At the U.N.’s latest climate change conference, COP27, participating countries reached an agreement to compensate developing nations for losses and damage suffered from climate change, as well as to fund efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

However, COP27 was also criticized for failing to make more progress on limiting emissions that contribute to rising temperatures.

Tags Antonio Guterres Antonio Guterres Climate change COP27 NOAA UN Security Council United Nations

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