A recent study conducted by a team of top scientists may be what finally sparks global commitment to sustainable alternatives, as it casts extreme doubt about the near-term stability of global sea levels.
Written by NASA’s former lead climate scientists, James Hansen, and 16 co-authors (most whom are recognized as the top in their fields) the study concludes that glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previously estimated, resulting in a sea level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years.
The lead scientist acknowledges that his study implies change far beyond previous consensus estimates but feels confident in the accuracy of what was found. He said he hoped the new results would be “substantially more persuasive than anything previously published.”
To determine their findings, the scientists used a mixture of paleoclimate records, computer models, and observations of current rates of sea level rise. However, the “real world is moving somewhat faster than the model,” reports Hansen.
The entire study has just been made available here.
According to the study, a faster rise in sea levels could lead to a number of climate change “feedbacks” that could shut down the oceans’ circulation; stratify the polar seas with warmer waters trapped below cold surface layers; increase the temperature difference between low and high latitudes; and generate stronger storms.
Obviously, it isn’t looking good for coastal cities in the future.
The study does not attempt to predict the precise timing of the feedback loop, but instead predicts what is “likely” to occur within the next century.
In a “likely” scenario presented by Hansen’s study, New York City – and every other coastal city on the planet – may only have a few more decades of surface-time on this planet. That probability, according to Hansen, requires “emergency cooperation among nations.”
“We conclude that continued high emissions will make multi-meter sea level rise practically unavoidable and likely to occur this century. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.”
In 2013, Hansen left his post at NASA to become a climate activist because, in his words, “as a government employee, you can’t testify against the government.” In the new study, Hansen writes, “there is no morally defensible excuse to delay phase-out of fossil fuel emissions as rapidly as possible.”
This finding is no doubt concerning. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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