A worrisome new study is warning that global sea levels could rise more than two meters (6.6 feet) by the end of this century if emissions are left unchecked. Such a dramatic rise would lead to the flooding of coastal cities and the potential displacement of up to 187 million people, about 2.5% of the population.
Most extreme case
The researchers outlined a couple of case scenarios. Under the most extreme-case, global temperatures could increase by 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.
Such a temperature rise, argue the researchers, would result in about 1.79 million square kilometers (691,120 sq miles) of land lost to the sea. This is due to the accelerating melting of ice sheets in both Greenland and Antarctica.
The authors did point out that the worst-case scenario has only a 5% chance of occurring, but it can occur nonetheless.
"Our study suggests that there is a real risk, a plausible risk of very substantial sea level rise coming from both ice sheets," lead author Jonathan Bamber, a Professor of Physical Geography at the University of Bristol told CNN.
"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,” he added.
The research revealed that even in the best case scenarios outlined in the Paris Agreement, sea levels will continue to rise at dangerous levels, faster than we expect.
“When we pump more carbon into the atmosphere, the effect on temperature is almost immediate,” had said Oregon State University climate scientist and lead author on the study Peter Clark in a statement.
“But sea level rise takes a lot longer to respond to that warming."
Like an ice cube
Clark, at the time, used the analogy of an ice cube to explain the phenomenon indicating that ice left on a sidewalk won't melt immediately.
“The same is true for ice sheets. It takes time for them to melt so that the resulting sea level rise will continue for hundreds to thousands of years after we’re done emitting carbon,” he further added.
Whichever way you look at it, there is no denying our ice sheets are melting. Isn't it time we did more about it?