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Sea Levels Rising Ever Faster

New research shows that sea levels are rising considerably faster than previously calculated.

The study shows that children being born today can expect to see low-lying parts of the world disappear during their lifetime. Delta regions like Bangladesh would be entirely underwater. So would island nations like Tuvalu and the Maldives. Coastal cities like Tokyo and London would be mostly underwater, as would large parts of New York City, New Orleans and Miami. [readon]

The International Panel on Climate Change has calculated that sea level has been rising at an average rate of 2 millimeters a year for the last 30 years. But the new study shows that a more accurate figure is 3.2 mm a year. If the trend continues, then sea levels could be rising by 9 mm per year by the end of the century, and the total rise by 2100 would be 1.2 meters (just under 4 feet).

This is a computer-enhanced photo of what London might look like in a typical flood in the coming years:


And this is one of the South Pacific Tuvalu islands, which can expect to be completely underwater by the end of the century:


At the climate summit in Doha, Qatar, which is taking place all this week, Prof. Mark Maslin of University College London, said, “The worse-case scenario, if both Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheets melt, could push up sea levels by 13 meters (almost 40 feet).”

Many scientists say such a rise is unlikely this century since ice melts slowly, even if relentlessly. But one of the big unknown factors is what happens if and when the permafrost regions of the subarctic start melting.

A study by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) warns that melting permafrost could make global warming a lot worse, since frozen organic matter under the ice will release large quantities of methane into the atmosphere, causing more warming, therefore more melting of the permafrost, and a runaway “feedback loop”.