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JOHANNESBURG, 10 March 2009 (IRIN)
– In the past few months, newspapers across the globe have been flooded
with a debate over new studies projecting a higher and faster sea-level
rise by the next century, which would sound the death-knell for
low-lying countries and coastal cities.
The debate has been fuelled by varying interpretations of the impact of
melting ice, and by a new projection of up to 1.4m in sea-level rise by
2100, rather than a 2007 projection by the authoritative
Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) of between 18cm and
59cm by that time, depending on a range of greenhouse-gas emission
ased on IPCC’s findings a sea-level rise of 50 cm projected for the
next 100 years is expected to occur mostly in the second half of the
next century, according to Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory of UK’s
Natural Environment Council. “Consequently, rises of level for the next
20-30 years (your remaining lifetime) can be expected to be similar to
those for the past 30 years (of the order of 10cm)”.
The impact of the sea-level rise is already unfolding. Island states
such as the Papua New Guinea are already feeling the impact: in 2005,
1,000 residents on its Carteret atoll had to be evacuated as the rising
sea level was slowly drowning their land.
“We will also see an increase in storm surges,” said Robert
Bindschadler, chief scientist at the Hydrospheric and Biospheric
Sciences Laboratory of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Stefan Rahmstorf, a climate scientist and oceanographer at the Potsdam
Institute for Climate Impact Research, in Germany, who made the 1.4m
projection and is attending the Copenhagen conference, said it was
“very critical” that governments take into account the new findings
“because of the long time-scale of sea-level rise”.
“Once set in motion, sea-level rise is impossible to stop. The only
chance we have to limit sea-level rise to manageable levels (say, one
metre, which is severe enough) is to reduce emissions very quickly,
early in this century. Later it will be too late to do much,” Rahmstorf