Recently, United Nations General Secretary Antonio Guterres addressed the U.N. Security Council on the issue of the security threats created by rising sea levels. In the past, some members of the Security Council – notably Brazil, China, Russia, and at times, India – have argued that the U.N.’s climate program should address such issues and that the Security Council doesn’t have a mandate or the expertise to consider the issue. The underlying problem is that by addressing the security issues created by rising seas, other sensitive geopolitical issues might come to the forefront.
Guterres’ speech focused on the real possibility that rising seas could disrupt and destabilize global societies unless there is an organized international effort to get ahead of the problem. Major cities facing serious impacts from rising seas include Cairo, Lagos, Bangkok, Jakarta, Mumbai, Shanghai, Copenhagen, London, Los Angeles, New York, and Buenos Aires, among others.
In all, Guterres said that the danger is most acute for about 900 million people living in low-lying coastal areas. Some countries, particularly small island developing countries, could disappear entirely.
The world is already facing refugee crises related to politics, warfare, and extreme weather. The flood of refugees created by rising seas could be biblical in magnitude.
The confluence of climate change and global security is growing steadily. As the global body primarily responsible for maintaining international peace and security, the U.N. Security Council cannot duck this issue much longer. It has a critical role to play in building the political will required to address the security challenges looming from rising seas.
Sea Level Rise Could Drive 1 in 10 People from Their Homes, with Dangerous Implications for International Peace, UN Secretary General Warns
Photo, posted July 19, 2021, courtesy of Face of the World via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio