It’s no secret that the ice on Earth‘s poles is melting and that it’s causing global sea levels to rise. This is a pretty dangerous consequence of human-driven global warming. A new study adds to the plethora of evidence suggesting that we need to take action before global sea levels rise drastically, which could happen by the end of the century.
If global sea levels rise more than 6.6 feet by the end of the 21st century, it could have disastrous consequences on coastal cities such as New York, Shanghai and others, leaving over 187 million people without homes, according to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Due to the accelerated melting of ice, the sea levels could rise faster too, considering that ice sheets on both Greenland and Antarctica are endangered.
A team of international researchers predicts that the worst-case scenario will occur if the global temperature rises 9 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, causing sea levels to rise 6.6 feet. That’s double the upper limit warned about by the UN climate science panel.
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“It really is pretty grim,” lead author Jonathan Bamber of the University of Bristol told CNN. “Two meters is not a good scenario.”
Researchers add that if 187 million people lost their homes and had to be placed elsewhere, it could cause a lot of serious social disturbances. It could also pose an “existential threat” to small island nations in the Pacific because they may become uninhabitable. Another dreadful prediction which came out of this study is that in the worst-case scenario, 691,120 square miles would be lost to the sea. That area is three times the size of California. The 187 million people endangered by this scenario make up about 2.5% of the world’s population, CNN reports.
While this scenario has only a 5% chance to happen, researchers still don’t want to rule it out. While working to improve the environment in general, they want to have a backup plan in reserve in case it does happen.
“Our study suggests that there is a real risk, a plausible risk of very substantial sea level rise coming from both ice sheets,” Bamber said, adding that humanity doesn’t have many opportunities to avoid the worst consequences that come with the rapid rise of global sea levels.
“What we decide to do collectively as a species politically, globally, over the next decade is going to determine the future of the next generations in terms of the habitability of the planet and what sort of environment they live in.”
In 2013 the United Nations’ climate panel made a scary prediction about the global sea level, saying it could rise 20.4 to 38.5 inches by 2100 if it continues to rise at the trajectory it had in 2013. At the time, many experts found those results conservative. However, many studies on Antarctica’s ice sheets and on the Arctic suggest that the sea level could easily reach those heights if the ice continues to melt.