Seas could rise “by a metre by 2100”

Scientists at a climate-change conference in Copenhagen say changes in the polar ice sheets could raise sea levels by one metre or more by 2100, the Guardian reported. Their latest research indicates that such a rise – far higher than that projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 – could severely threaten millions of people in low-lying areas.


New studies of ice loss in Greenland showed acceleration over the last decade, said Konrad Steffen, of the University of Colorado, who “would predict sea-level rise by 2100 in the order of one metre”. Indications are that the increase will be up to three times the 59-centimetre average predicted by the IPCC, Steffen said. “It is a major change and it actually calls for action.”


The IPCC estimate had been based largely on the expansion of oceans from higher temperatures, rather than meltwater and the impact of glaciers breaking into the sea.


Stefan Ramstorf, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said differences in the details of scientists’ projections “should not cloud the overall picture, where even the lower end of the projections look to have very serious effects”.


Eric Rignot, of the US space agency Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said new studies showed that melting from the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica “are already contributing more and faster to sea level rise than anticipated”. According to John Church, of the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research in Tasmania, sea levels have continued to rise by three millimetres per year or more since 1993 — “a rate well above the 20th-century average.”


More than 2,000 researchers from 80 countries are attending the conference. Organised by the Danish government, it is intended to spur politicians into taking action on global warming. Copenhagen also will host a critical UN climate conference in December, which will determine whether a post-Kyoto agreement to effectively address climate change can be achieved.


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