New research indicates that no matter what is done to halt global warming, sea levels will continue to rise for the next several centuries. The article by researchers from the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, U.S. research organization Climate Central and the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research notes, “Though sea-level rise cannot be stopped for at least the next several hundred years, with aggressive mitigation it can be slowed down, and this would buy time for adaptation measures to be adopted.” Many previous studies have shown similar data, yet global action to curb carbon emissions and other efforts to mitigate global warming have been slow in coming.
While the situation is too complex to allow for precise predictions of the rate and degree of sea level rise, the data indicate that sea level rise will continue, no matter how much is done to stabilize temperatures, due to the thermal expansion of sea water and the melting of ice sheets and glaciers that is already underway. And, far from stabilizing, last month it was reported that carbon dioxide levels in the Arctic crossed the 400 parts per million mark. This is the first time a monthly average measurement for the greenhouse gas attained the 400 ppm mark in a remote location. Carbon dioxide levels globally, currently around 395 ppm, are at the highest level of any time in the past 800,000 years.
One-tenth of the world’s population lives in low-lying areas that are prone to flooding and are threatened by sea level rise. Research earlier this spring reveals that some 3.7 million Americans are at risk from flooding in coming decades. Last month U.S. Geological Survey scientists reported that the U.S. East Coast is already seeing a significantly higher rate and degree of sea level rise due to global warming: levels have risen an average of two inches worldwide since 1990, but have risen by 4.8 inches in parts of coastal Virginia.
Image: by Jon Sullivan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons