If climate change is allowed to continue at its current rate, the world may face a 6.5ft rise in ocean levels by the year 2100. The warning comes from nearly two dozen ice sheet experts who were quizzed on plausible sea level rise (SLR) based on anticipated ice sheet melting under global temperature increase projections. Such a drastic ocean level increase would be catastrophic for many coastal cities around the world.
The new figure is a structured expert judgement (SEJ) formed by a team of scientists who spoke with 22 ice sheet experts. Based on plausible future sea level rises provided by these experts, the team led by the University of Bristol determined there is a ‘small but meaningful probability’ that sea levels could rise by 2 meters / 6.5 feet by the year 2100.
That extreme sea level rise is estimated under the high global temperature increase scenario, meaning the extreme end of projections based on an unchecked climate change reality. That estimate falls around the ‘business as usual’ future — one in which people did nothing to combat global warming.
Assuming that worst case scenario, the world would experience around a 1.79 million km2 loss of land, including the flooding of many major cities like New York and Miami — as many as 187 million people could be forced to relocate under such an extreme rise. As well, the flooding would overtake some areas that are considered critical for food production.
Such information plays an important role for future decision making at both the regional and global scale. Though this is a high-end estimate and sea level rise is expected to be less dramatic (though still quite worrisome), researchers point out that the extreme potential should not be ignored.