Washington, December 17 (ANI): A new analysis of the geological record of the Earth's sea level has determined that an additional 2 degrees of global warming could commit the planet to 6 to 9 meters (20 to 30 feet) of long-term sea level rise, which would inundate low-lying coastal areas where hundreds of millions of people now reside.
Scientists at Princeton and Harvard universities did the analysis.
They employed a novel statistical approach which revealed that the planet's polar ice sheets are vulnerable to large-scale melting even under moderate global warming scenarios, leading to a long-term sea level rise.
It would permanently submerge New Orleans and other parts of southern Louisiana, much of southern Florida and other parts of the US East Coast, much of Bangladesh, and most of the Netherlands, unless unprecedented and expensive coastal protection were undertaken.
While the researchers' findings indicate that such a rise would likely take centuries to complete, if emissions of greenhouse gases are not abated, the planet could be committed during this century to a level of warming sufficient to trigger this outcome.
As part of the study, the researchers compiled an extensive database of geological sea level indicators for a period known as the last interglacial stage about 125,000 years ago.
Polar temperatures during this stage were likely 3 to 5 degrees Celsius (5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than today, as is expected to occur in the future if temperatures reach about 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (about 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
"The last interglacial stage provides a historical analog for futures with a fairly moderate amount of warming; the high sea levels during the stage suggest that significant chunks of major ice sheets could disappear over a period of centuries in such futures," said Robert Kopp, who conducted the research as a postdoctoral researcher in Princeton's Department of Geosciences and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
"Yet if the global economy continues to depend heavily on fossil fuels, we're on track to have significantly more warming by the end of century than occurred during the last interglacial. I find this somewhat worrisome," he added.
"Despite the uncertainties inherent in such a study, these findings should send a strong message to the governments negotiating in Copenhagen that the time to avoid disastrous outcomes may run out sooner than expected," said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs in Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. (ANI)