Sea level rise is a serious threat, but a new report argues that it may be far worse than even the current worst-case estimates. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, estimates that there is a 5 percent chance the sea level will rise between 2 feet and 7.8 feet within the next century. This is more than twice what was recently predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Although 5 percent might seem like a small probability, the researchers are quick to point out that is a one in 20 chance, and this should not be ignored by governments and infrastructure planners. Scientists focused their research on predicting the impact of ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica if the world warms by 5 degrees. Under the Paris Agreement, 185 countries pledged to limit global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius, but radical changes would have to be made and sustained in order to come close to this ambitious goal.
According to the researchers’ predictions, such a rise in sea levels would be globally catastrophic. Coastal cities like Miami and New York are especially vulnerable, as are major agricultural areas like the Nile Delta. Small islands in the Pacific and Caribbean would be devastated, and an estimated 187 million people would be displaced. To put this into perspective, about 1 million people have been displaced by the Syrian refugee crisis.
Bamber said, “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.”
Image via NASA