Risk of sea-level rise with warming seen

June 25, 2012 at 5:00 PM
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POTSDAM, Germany, June 25 (UPI) -- Even if the world can limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, sea levels could still rise between 5 and 13 feet by the year 2300, German researchers say.

However, emissions reductions that kept the temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius could go a long way toward inhibiting rising seas, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research reported Sunday.

The predictions are based on observed sea-level rises over the past millennium, as well as on scenarios for future greenhouse-gas emissions, researchers said.

"Sea-level rise is a hard to quantify yet critical risk of climate change," study lead author Michiel Schaeffer of Wageningen University, said. "Due to the long time it takes for the world's ice and water masses to react to global warming, our emissions today determine sea levels for centuries to come."

Keeping global warming in check could considerably reduce sea-level increases, researchers said.

Limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius and subsequent temperature reductions could halve sea-level rise by 2300, compared to a 2-degree scenario, they said.

But even moderate sea-level increases would have significant impacts, researchers said.

"As an example, for New York City it has been shown that 1 meter (about 39 inches) of sea level rise could raise the frequency of severe flooding from once per century to once every three years," study co-author Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute said.

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