New York City will be under water in 100 years, experts issue stark warning as sea level rise speeds up
The study says that sea levels will probably rise much faster than was estimated earlier because of the increased rate with which the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting
A new study has warned that global sea levels could rise by more than 2 meters, which is 6.6 feet, by the end of this century if emissions continue unchecked. This means that major cities across the world like New York and Shanghai could end up submerged and will displace up to 187 million people. The study was released on Monday, May 20, and says that sea levels will probably rise much faster than was estimated earlier because of the increased rate with which the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting.
The international researchers involved with the study have predicted that in the worst case scenario, global temperatures could increase by 5 degrees C (9 degrees F) by 2100 which will lead to sea levels rising more than 2 meters in the same time. This is the double upper limit that was outlined by the UN climate science panel's last major report.
The authors of the study have since warned that if a situation like that arises it would be "catastrophic". Lead author Jonathan Bamber, a Professor of Physical Geography at the University of Bristol, said in an interview: "It really is pretty grim. Two meters is not a good scenario." Dr. Pamela Grothe from the University of Mary Washington also told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW): "This new estimate is astonishing, which is about twice as high as what we previously thought. It would displace millions of more people living in low-lying coastal regions."
This would soon end up posing an "existential threat" to small island nations in the Pacific region which will become uninhabitable. The researchers added that they found in the extreme-case scenario, around 1.79 million square kilometers (691,120 sq miles), which is an area that is three times the size of California, will be lost to rising sea levels. A rise like this would put 187 million people, or around 2.5% of the world's population, at risk.
The authors have acknowledged that even though the chance of this worst-case scenario happening could be small, around 5% according to their predictions, it should not be discounted. Bamber said in the interview: "Our study suggests that there is a real risk, a plausible risk of very substantial sea level rise coming from both ice sheets."
Dr. Peter T. Fretwell of the British Antarctic Survey told MEAWW that the problem would be the speed of change. He added: "We can build sea defenses for low lying cities, but if the rate of sea rise is extreme, then it is likely that they will not be built fast enough . We can also look forward to flooding an inundation of many of the words many cities, with some becoming untenable. Other low lying areas would be flooded – leading to massive emigration."
When asked if this change will affect weather patterns in any way, Fretwell answered: "If you have a warmer atmosphere it can store more water so look forward to more rain and more extreme events." Experts, however, do agree that there is a chance to avert this disaster if we can cut down on emissions.
Fretwell said: "Governments, people and corporations need to bring forward plans to reduce emissions, but one country cannot do this alone – it is a global problem that needs a global solution." Grothe added: "Though there is a lot of uncertainty in modeling ice sheet loss, if we can keep our rise in global temperatures below 1.5-2 C, as set by the Paris Agreement, then we may only see a couple of feet of sea level rise by 2100. This is definitely an ambitious target and we need to act now to reach this goal."
Bamber said that our species has a small window of opportunity to avoid some of the more catastrophic consequences such as very high sea level rise. He said: "What we decide to do collectively as a species politically, globally, over the next decade is going to determine the future of the next generations in terms of the habitability of the planet and what sort of environment they live in."
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences.
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