By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – A new study released by international researchers and led by the University of Bristol (UK) reveals sobering results. It suggests that if the ice sheets continue to melt, seas could rise submerging coastal cities around the world and displacing as many as 200 million people by the end of the century.
Using a technique called structured expert judgment (SEJ), the 22 researchers found that current sea level rising forecasts could be dangerously underestimated and much higher than projected.
“We find it plausible that SLR [sea level rising] could exceed two meters by 2100 for our high-temperature scenario, roughly equivalent to ‘business as usual’. This could result in land loss of 1.79 M km2, including critical regions of food production, and displacement of up to 187 million people,” notes the study.
These new estimates are more than twice as high as the upper limit predicted in a 2013 U.N. climate assessment and according to researchers, a SLR of this magnitude would ‘clearly have profound consequences for humanity’.
In 2013, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that, in the worst-case scenario, sea level rising levels would to total less than a meter (0.98m) by 2100.
“It really is pretty grim,” study co-author, Jonathan Bamber, and a professor of physical geography at the University of Bristol in England told CNN. “Two meters is not a good scenario.”
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study measures the sea level rise by obtaining experts’ opinions on how much ice the world is likely to lose this century due to higher temperatures.
One of the things these researchers found is that the behavior of ice melting rates in places such as Antarctica and Greenland is much more uncertain than previously believed, and that this uncertainty has, instead of decreasing, grown.
Since the meltwater from ice sheets in those regions are the greatest factor contributing to sea level rise, the uncertainty in their behavior makes SLR estimates also very unpredictable.
“With all the new research, data and knowledge, you might expect the uncertainties around how much ice sheet melting will contribute to sea level rise to have got smaller,” stated Bamber in a recent article written by him and Princeton Professor, Michael Oppenheimer.
“Unfortunately, that’s not what we found. What we did find was a range of future outcomes that go from bad to worse,” concluded the researcher.
According to the study, officials from cities near oceans, like New York, Miami and Mumbai (India), know that the waters surrounding them will eventually rise but these new predictions may make coastal cities scramble to adopt emergency measures in a shorter timeline.
“Sea level rise driven by migration of this size might threaten the existence of nation states and result in unimaginable stress on resources and space. There is time to change course, but not much, and the longer we delay the harder it gets, the bigger the mountain we have to climb,” concluded Bamber.