New paper warns 2 degree limit isn't enough to stop major sea level rise

New paper warns 2 degree limit isn’t enough to stop major sea level rise

New paper warns 2 degree limit isn’t enough to stop major sea level rise

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In a recently released paper in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion, former NASA climate scientist Jim Hansen and 16 other researchers detail a climate change future more alarming than the one projected by the IPCC, the leading international body of science on climate.

Most importantly, the scientists warn that the target temperature increase to which most governments seek to limit warming, 2 degrees Celsius, is not a safe temperature threshold. This is another piece of a larger wave of new research suggesting the goal should be replaced with a more safe 1.5 degrees Celsius limit, something for which many groups — including Friends of the Earth — and two-thirds of the UNFCCC signatory countries have called. As no temperature rise is truly safe or acceptable, countries should aim for the lowest possible goal. Coming on the tail of NOAA’s annual State of the Climate report, which documented the vast array of climate disruption already happening, this study additionally warns that the Earth could see sea level rise of over 10 feet by 2100.

“Continued high emissions will make multi-meter sea level rise practically unavoidable and likely to occur this century.”

Much of this accelerated sea rise is attributed to a feedback loop (when the effects of warming serve to beget more, faster warming), using melting Antarctic ice sheets as an example. The Washington Post notes that some other climate scientists are more skeptical of the findings on this melting. While the paper has not yet been peer reviewed, its authors say that they wished to release it before the November climate summit in Paris, to urge negotiators to commit to stronger action.

The IPCC panel report, which is comparatively conservative, predicts a 3-foot sea level rise in the same time period, given emissions at their current rate. This new prediction is especially alarming given the lack of serious climate commitments from the U.S. and other developed nations. The possibility of a 10-foot rise within the next 85 years gives vulnerable countries and regions little time to prepare and adapt, and highlights the need for better climate finance to kickstart projects that would protect people in developing countries.

Image: Flooding in Assateague Island National Seashore — NPS, Flickr, Creative Commons

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