One of the major questions for coastal governments and real estate owners is: How fast will sea level rise flooding advance? According to the latest analysis by the United Nation’s Intragovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the answer is: Likely a lot sooner than we’d hoped.
IPCC scientists analyzed data from Antarctica and Greenland and determined that land-based ice and snow are melting six times faster than they did in the 1990s. This is in line with the group’s worst-case scenario.
At this pace of melting, IPCC experts estimate the oceans will rise nearly 7 extra inches over the 21 inches (1.75 feet) they’ve set as their mid-range global sea level rise prediction for the end of the century. That’s a total of 2 1/4 feet of sea level rise.
Andrew Shepherd, a professor of Earth Observations at the University of Leeds, told the Guardian newspaper that if sea levels rise as predicted in the latest estimate, 400 million people will be impacted by coastal flooding; that’s up from 360 million people earlier predicted. “These are not unlikely events with small impacts,” he told the paper. “They are already under way and will be devastating for coastal communities.”
Land-based ice and snow melting in Greenland and Antarctic contribute about a third of the global sea level rise total. The rest comes from expansion of the oceans as they warm and runoff from smaller glaciers.
Greenland and Antarctica seem like a long way away, but their meltwaters could ultimately decide the fate of billions of dollars worth of coastal real estate. To make informed decisions, property owners in at-risk areas need to keep up to date on the pace of ice and snow melt and the stability of their glaciers.
Humans need to nearly half greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade or face dire climate consequences. That’s the warning issued by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization which released its annual State of the Global Climate report this week in New York.
“Greenhouse gas concentrations are at the highest level in 3 million years – when the Earth’s temperature was as much as 3 degrees hotter and sea levels some 15 meters higher,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “We count the cost in human lives and livelihoods as droughts, wildfires, floods and extreme storms take their deadly toll.”
The WMO’s report discussed the many signs of climate change experienced around the globe in 2019, including increased heating of land and ocean, accelerated sea level rise, and ice melt. Each decade since 1980 has set a global heat record, and 2016 was the hottest year on record. Scientists say that record will likely be broken in the next five years.
“We need all countries to demonstrate that we can achieve emissions reductions of 45 percent from 2010 levels this decade and that we will reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. We know this is the only way to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Secretary Guterres said.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said not heeding reducing the release of greenhouse gases will continue to hasten sea level rise. “Reported record temperatures in Antarctica were accompanied by large-scale ice melt and the fracturing of a glacier which will have repercussions for sea level rise,” Secretary Taalas said.
The UN and WMO are calling on developed countries to commit $100 billion a year toward developing renewable energy sources and green technologies.