Science

Sea levels may rise much faster than previously estimated, swamping coastal cities

Sea levels may rise much faster than previously estimated, swamping coastal cities”

Experts surveyed by the study authors estimate that, if emissions continue on their current trajectory, accelerated ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica could contribute to rises of 2 meters and lead to the displacement of almost 200 million of people.

If climate-changing emissions continue largely unchecked, more than 187 million people may be forced from their homes due to the deluge of water, according to the study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences.

New predictions: In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted sea levels around the world would rise by between 52cm and 98cm by 2100.

In the most extreme case, about 1.79 million square kilometers-an area the size of Libya-of land could be lost to the sea. Large swathes of Bangladesh would be very hard for people to continue to live in.

A team of global scientists used a technique called structured expert judgment to ask 22 ice sheet experts to estimate plausible ranges for future sea level rises. Major global cities, including London, New York and Shanghai would be under threat.

"To put this into perspective, the Syrian refugee crisis resulted in about a million refugees coming into Europe", said Prof Bamber. "This new study looks at a broader range of results, covering 5-95 percent of the estimates".

The SEJ process provided an opportunity for experts to discuss their scientific rationales for the quantitative judgments they make on uncertainties relating to future ice sheet contributions to sea level.

The new study looks at estimates of what could happen in the 5 to 95 percent range of events, whereas the 2013 United Nations report looked at the 17 to 83 percent range and expects temperatures to rise 2 degrees Celsius.

Such a situation would be "catastrophic", the authors of the study warn.

"The experts we assessed found a pretty significant chance of "black swan" outcomes leading to extremely high levels of rise". The IPCC released a special report last October that warned the worldwide community had only about 12 years left to prevent climate catastrophe, but that report did not include updated projects for sea level rise.

Kopp is a professor at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and a lead author of the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report, set for publication in 2021.

The findings suggest coastal communities should not rule out the possibility of 21st century sea level rise in excess of two metres when developing adaptation strategies.

While a rise of 5 degree Celsius would be considered scientifically unlikely, the study's lead author, Jonathan Bamber, told the BBC that it's important to look at the lower values because there is statistical significance to it.



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