In a report touching on a high-stakes, contentious issue, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will predict sea levels to rise by between 26 and 81 centimetres by 2100, according to a draft seen by AFP. If these estimates are endorsed in the final document issued in Stockholm, they will outstrip projections made by the Nobel-winning group in 2007 of a 18-59 cm rise by 2100.
The figures are based on the most optimistic and most pessimistic scenarios for reining in heat-trapping carbon emissions. Sea-level rise is, potentially, one of the big whammies of climate change.
Rising seas stealthily gobble up valuable land and threaten oblivion for low-lying small island nations like the Maldives, where the ground level is just 1.5 metres above the waves on average.
They also expose cities to storm surges, as was catastrophically shown last year when parts of New York City and New Jersey were engulfed by Tropical Storm Sandy. Trying to predict ocean rise, however, has been at times like trying to pierce a fog.
"[Climatology] is still a young science," said French specialist Anny Cazenave, who was lead author of the sea-level section in the IPCC's upcoming Fifth Assessment Report, and of its predecessor in 2007. "We only have worldwide data going back 20 or 30 years, thanks to satellites, and before that, we only have partial observations."