FFE Magazine

Millions of lives at stake as sea levels rise


Sea level rising in Ghoramara Island in India. Photo by greenpeace

A warning on global warming and its effects on sea level is set to be issued by the United Nations on Friday, September 27.

According to a report prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sea levels may rise from 10.4-32.4” (or 26 and 81cm) by 2100. These estimates will overtake earlier projections made by a Nobel-winning group in 2007 which predicted sea levels will rise 18-59cm by 2100.

The latest figures are based on the best and worst-case scenarios for slowing down the release of carbon emissions.

The rise of sea levels will lead to huge consequences on a global scale. Rising tides will cover valuable land, displace people and even gobble up entire nations. Maldives, a low-lying island in the Indian Ocean, will be engulfed by waves if water levels increase by 1.5m.

Cities exposed to storm surges will also experience catastrophe on the scale of 2012 Tropical Storm Sandy’s destruction in parts of New York and New Jersey.

French specialist Anny Cazenave, lead author of the sea-level section in the IPCC’s upcoming Fifth Assessment Report, confessed that climatology or the study of weather conditions is “still a young science,” and that predicting ocean rise is uncertain. But efforts in understanding ocean anomalies and improving oceanography and computers are decreasing the margin of uncertainty.

Recent studies have pointed to run-offs from ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica as the root of the rising sea levels. But caution is still needed when making predictions this century.

In the US journal “Science,” a commentary warned “For civilization, the stakes are high. Without adaptation, a rise by 50cm (20 inches) would displace 3.8 million people in the most fertile part of the Nile River delta.

“A rise by two metres (6.5ft) could displace 187 million people globally.”

A separate study in August also discovered that 136 of the world’s largest coastal cities could risk losing $1 trillion from floods by 2050.

Experts clarified that sea levels do not rise at the same rate worldwide. Some areas may experience much higher rates as factors like groundwater, air pressure, sea currents and winds can affect the build-up of water in certain parts of the world.

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