March 11, 2009

Rising sea levels to impact low areas

Scientists at a Denmark conference say rising sea levels will have a major negative impact on 1-in-10 humans living in the Earth's low-lying coastal areas.

Research presented during this week's International Scientific Congress on Climate Change in Copenhagen shows the upper range of sea level rise by 2100 could be in the range of about 1 meter (3 feet) or possibly more. At the lower end of the spectrum, studies show it is increasingly unlikely sea level rise will be much less than 50 centimeters (19 inches) by 2100.

That, the scientists said, means if emissions of greenhouse gases aren't reduced quickly and substantially even the best-case scenario will hit low-lying coastal areas housing 1-in-10 humans on the planet hard.

Unless we undertake urgent and significant mitigation actions, the climate could cross a threshold during the 21st century committing the world to a sea level rise of meters, said John Church of the Center for Australian Weather and Climate Research. Our study centered on Australia showed that coastal flooding events that today we expect only once every hundred years will happen several times a year by 2100.

The preliminary conclusions from the congress will be presented Thursday during the event's closing session and will be included in a synthesis report to be published in June.