By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Global sea levels will most likely rise between 0.95 feet and 3.61 feet by 2100, according to a report released on Wednesday by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These are the most somber forecasts for sea level rise ever made by the entity.
The report states that global warming has already reached 1°C above the pre-industrial level, which has pressured the increase of sea levels. While sea level has risen globally by around 15 cm during the 20th century, it is currently rising more than twice as fast, and accelerating, the report showed.
“There is overwhelming evidence that this is resulting in profound consequences for ecosystems and people. The ocean is warmer, more acidic and less productive. Melting glaciers and ice sheets are causing sea level rise, and coastal extreme events are becoming more severe,” says the document.
According to the IPCC report, dubbed, Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC), tipping points are being reached and some of the more severe consequences of climate change can no longer be avoided.
For these scientists, sea level rise will also increase the frequency of extreme sea level events. They note that events that occurred once per century in the past will occur every year by mid-century in many regions, increasing risks for many low-lying coastal cities and small island nations.
“Some island nations are likely to become uninhabitable due to climate-related ocean and cryosphere change,” the report stated, admitting however that ‘habitability thresholds remain extremely difficult to assess’.
According to the authors, without major investments in adaptation, coastal residents will be exposed to escalating flood risks.
“The world’s ocean and cryosphere have been ‘taking the heat’ from climate change for decades, and consequences for nature and humanity are sweeping and severe,” said Ko Barrett, Vice-Chair of the IPCC.
“The rapid changes to the ocean and the frozen parts of our planet are forcing people from coastal cities to remote Arctic communities to fundamentally alter their ways of life,” added Barrett.
The report states that if governments act swiftly, strongly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting and restoring ecosystems, and carefully managing the use of natural resources, they could preserve the ocean and the cryosphere, allowing humans time to adapt to future changes.
“If we reduce emissions sharply, consequences for people and their livelihoods will still be challenging, but potentially more manageable for those who are most vulnerable,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC during Thursday’s press conference.
“The ambitious climate policies and emissions reductions required to deliver the Paris Agreement will also protect the ocean and cryosphere – and ultimately sustain all life on Earth,” added Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.
Over 100 scientists from 36 countries analyzed over 7,000 scientific publications related to the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate for the report, according to officials.
Scientists now hope that Wednesday’s IPCC Special Report will be a main source of scientific input for world leaders gathering in Chile in December for the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (COP25).