Scientific research indicates sea levels worldwide have been rising at a rate of 0.14 inches (3.5 millimeters) per year since the early 1990s. The trend, linked to global warming, puts thousands of coastal cities, and even whole islands at risk of being claimed by the ocean.
New research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science tracking the past 2,800 years shows that sea level has never risen nearly as fast as during the last century. Researchers have charted what they called “acceleration” in sea level rise that’s triggering and worsening flooding in coastlines around the world. The findings also warn of much worse to come. By trapping heat, rising concentrations of atmospheric pollution are causing glaciers and ice sheets to melt into seas, lifting high tides even higher.
By extending their findings to future scenarios, the scientists showed that the amount of land that could be inundated in the coming years will depend heavily on whether humanity succeeds in slashing pollution from fuel burning, deforestation and farming. Even if humans quickly stop polluting the atmosphere, potentially keeping global temperature rise to well below 2°C compared with preindustrial times – a major goal of the Paris climate agreement – seas may still rise by an additional 9 inches to 2 feet this century, the study concluded. That will trigger serious flooding in some areas, and worsen it in others.
Under the worst-case scenario investigated, if pollution continues unabated, and if seas respond to ongoing warming by rising at the fastest rates considered likely, sea levels could rise more than 4 feet this century alone, wiping out coastal infrastructure and driving communities inland. The problem would be made far worse if the Antarctic or Greenland ice sheets collapse – something that’s difficult to forecast, the report said. (Floro Mercene)