Sea Levels May Rise Much Faster Than Previously Estimated, Says New Study

Last Updated:
Wed, 2019-10-16 13:05
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A new study published May 20, 2019 reveals that global sea levels could rise more than 6 feet (2 meters) by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions go unchecked.

The study says that sea levels may rise much faster than previously estimated. The United Nations climate panel’s last major report in 2013 predicted that sea levels could rise between 20.4-38.5 inches by 2100 at the current trajectory, but many experts saw those findings as conservative.

To try to get a clearer picture, the new report's authors asked 22 ice sheet experts to estimate how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets might respond to future climate change, using newly advanced regional- and continental-scale, process-based models.

The international researchers found that in the worst-case scenario, under which global temperatures increase by 9 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, sea levels could rise by more than 6.6 feet in the same period – double the upper limit outlined by the United Nations climate panel.

sea level rise in New Orleans

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

"There are roughly 240 million people in the world who would be flooded if we had 7.8 feet of sea level rise," says Bob Kopp, a climate and sea level scientist with Rutgers University in New Jersey and a co-author of the study.

Effects of Sea Level Rise

Sea level rise, which is an effect of climate change, can have the following impacts:

Displacement of thousands of people

Millions of acres of lands destroyed

Billions of dollars in losses

Saltwater intrusion into surface waters and groundwater

Increased coastal erosion

Potential loss of life

Increased loss of property and coastal habitats

Loss of non-monetary cultural resources and values

Impacts on agriculture & aquaculture via decline in soil & water quality

Loss of tourism, recreation, and transportation functions

Potential loss of basic services such as Internet access, due to underwater communications infrastructure

Bearing in mind that many major U.S. cities were established along waterways, effects of sea level rise in these areas would indeed be catastrophic, transformative, and overwhelmingly negative.

Solutions

A growing number of cities are stepping up to the challenge of sea-level rise. Most of them literally have no choice.

Alongside mitigating their carbon footprints through reducing emissions, there are basically three ways that states and cities are taking action.

1) they are fielding hard engineering projects like sea walls, surge barriers, water pumps and overflow chambers to keep water out.

2) they are adopting environmental approaches involving land recovery and the restoration of mangroves and wetlands to help cities cope with floodwater inundation.

3) involves people-oriented measures including urban design, building resilience and retreating after all other options have been exhausted.

Summary

Seas will most certainly rise by the end of the century, threatening major cities and the livelihoods of millions of people, but the extent of rise depends on governments stepping up to set goals and policies that limit warming.

If the global carbon emissions are curtailed within the limits which were agreed under the Paris Agreement on climate change and temperature rise are kept below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the best case scenario in terms of sea level rise would be a 2.3-foot rise by 2100.

 

For more information about Sea Level Rise, check out these fantastic articles and resources:

Sea Level Rise from Wikipedia

Sea Level Rise, Explained from National Geographic

Is Sea Level Rising? from the National Ocean Service

Global Sea Levels Could Rise by Much More from TIME

Sea Level Rise Will Flood Hundreds of Cities in the Near Future from National Geographic

8 World Cities That Could Be Underwater as Oceans Rise from EcoWatch

The World’s Coastal Cities Are Going Under. Here’s How Some Are Fighting Back from World Economic Forum

 

See these resources for infographics and interactive maps:

5 Major Cities Threatened by Climate Change and Sea Level Rise from TheCityFix

These U.S. Cities Are Most Vulnerable to Major Coastal Flooding and Sea Level Rise from Climate Central

The Urban Response to Sea Level Rise from C40 Cities

States At Risk