Global sea levels could rise by 1.8 meters by the end of the century in a worst-case climate change scenario, a new study has warned.
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In a paper published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, scientists estimate that melting ice sheets and glaciers are likely to raise sea levels by around 80cm by 2100.
This matches up with a recent analysis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned that global sea levels could rise by between 26 and 82 centimeters by the end of the century if stronger efforts are not made to curb climate change.
However, calculating an upper limit, the researchers say seas could rise by as much as 1.8 meters.
“We have created a picture of the probable limits for how much global sea levels will rise in this century. Our calculations show that the seas will likely rise around 80 cm,” said study author Aslak Grinsted, of the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.
“An increase of more than 180 cm has a likelihood of less than 5%. We find that a rise in sea levels of more than 2 meters is improbable.”
Driven largely by the gradual loss of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, such an increase in sea levels – though unlikely – would have a devastating impact on low-lying, coastal areas.
Recent studies have suggested that Antarctic ice sheets could be melting at a faster pace than previously thought, contributing to rising sea levels and posing a risk to coastal megacities, from New York to Shanghai.
Currently, Antarctica contributes less than 10% towards global sea level rise, but it is feared that manmade climate change could accelerate this ice loss.
In May, scientists also confirmed that the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet has begun and is now irreversible. This alone means global sea levels will inevitably rise by up to 4 metres (13ft).