Sea level rises may well come sooner and worse than expected

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New studies released at the end of March show that people alive today may face 6-9 metres of sea level rise flooding well over a million sq.km including many of the world’s biggest cities.

There is a possibility, a real danger, that we will hand young people and future generations a climate system that is practically out of their control.

One detail that may have been under-appreciated is meltwater. Melting ice sheets, especially in Greenland and Antarctica, is well understood to raise the sea level. But the effects might not be simply the additional water added to the oceans.

In this scenario, the melted freshwater will additionally increase warming, thereby creating a feedback loop that will accelerate the loss of polar ice sheets, thus accelerating the rate of sea-level rise. How fast? Fast enough that the sea level could rise by “several meters”, possibly six to nine meters, in 50 to 150 years.

This sobering prediction of what might happen without a drastic reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions is the conclusion of 19 climate scientists from the United States, France, Germany and China who studied the effect of growing ice melt from Greenland and Antarctica through the use of climate simulations, paleoclimate data and modern observations.

The paper, published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, concludes that swift action is necessary in the face of a“global emergency”.

Two other recent papers conclude that humanity has already committed itself to a six-meter rise in sea level because of the greenhouse gases already thrown into the atmosphere and the retention and later slow release of much of those gases by the world’s oceans.

A study in the journal Science estimates that more than 1,115,000 sq.km (444,000 sq.miles) of land, where more than 375 million people live today, would be inundated by such a rise.

The Atmospheric Chemistry paper concludes:

“There is a possibility, a real danger, that we will hand young people and future generations a climate system that is practically out of their control. We conclude that the message our climate science delivers to society, policymakers, and the public alike is this: we have a global emergency. Fossil fuel CO2 emissions should be reduced as rapidly as practical.”

Read the original article: No planet for optimists: coastal flooding may come sooner and bigger than we think – The Ecologist

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