Quantcast

Sea Level Rise Is Locked in Even If We Meet Paris Agreement Targets, New Study​ Says

Oceans
The highest point of Cape Perpetua (pictured above) in Oregon rises to more than 800 feet above sea level. Peter Clark, climate scientist and author of a new study from the Oregon State University says "even with the Paris pledges there will be a large amount of sea level rise." Charles Peterson / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Sea level rise will change the landscape of coastlines and challenge our ability to adapt over the next couple of centuries, even if all the 2030 emissions targets set in the Paris agreement are met, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


Just like a large ship charging at full speed takes a long time to come to a stop, the rising seas will need centuries before they stop encroaching on to land. The researchers found that the greenhouse gas emissions from the signing of the Paris agreement in 2015 to the target date of 2030 is enough to make the oceans rise 3.1 inches by the end of the century, according to Agence-France Presse (AFP).

The study shows that the period from 2015-2030 will, on its own, emit enough greenhouse gasses to raise the oceans 7.87 inches by 2300. It will only be 7.87 inches of sea-level rise if nations around the world honor their commitments to the Paris agreement.

However, that may be a conservative estimate since it assumes all the countries in the world drastically reduce their emissions and stop emitting greenhouse gasses after 2030. Another study last week found that without drastic reductions in emissions, entire cities could be underwater by 2050 and 300 million people could experience annual flooding, as EcoWatch reported.

Additionally, from 1990 to 2030, the authors of the new PNAS study found that the top five top polluters will be responsible for over 10 inches of sea-level rise.

The researchers crunched the numbers and found the lag time between the reduction in emissions and the oceans response will mean the oceans will continue to rise for sometime — we are already locked into a one meter sea rise by 2300, the study says.

"Even with the Paris pledges there will be a large amount of sea level rise," said Peter Clark, an Oregon State University climate scientist and co-author of the study, according to The Guardian.

The study looked at a 15-year period from when countries signed onto the Paris agreement in 2015 to 2030. The researchers' model used data that assumes all the signatories will drastically reduce emissions by 2030 and then immediately eliminate all greenhouse-warming gasses from that point forward. However, the unfortunate reality is that very few countries are on target to meet their goals that would stop the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as The Guardian reported.

"Sea level rise is going to be an ongoing problem for centuries to come, we will have to keep on adapting over and over again. It's going to be a whole new expensive lifestyle, costing trillions of dollars," said Clark, as The Guardian reported. "Sea level has a very long memory, so even if we start cooling temperatures the seas will continue to rise. It's a bit like trying to turn the Titanic around, rather than a speedboat."

However, that does not mean the situation is hopeless. It does mean that the decisions that are made today have tremendous impact in the future. The faster we can drop our emissions, the more time it will take ice to melt and for seas to rise. That will give coastal cities more time to prepare and it will give governments more time to fix the global climate crisis, as National Geographic reported.

"We can clearly see that there's a massive sea level rise contribution coming from emissions over such a short time frame, just over the Paris period," said Alexander Nauels, the lead author of the report and a sea level rise expert at Climate Analytics, as National Geographic reported. "But this is risk we can reduce, by all means, if we can, and it seems like we can."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

New pine trees grow from the forest floor along the North Fork of the Flathead River on the western boundary of Glacier National Park on Sept. 16, 2019 near West Glacier, Montana. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

By Alex Kirby

New forests are an apparently promising way to tackle global heating: the trees absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activities. But there's a snag, because permanently lower river flows can be an unintended consequence.

Read More
Household actions lead to changes in collective behavior and are an essential part of social movements. Pixabay / Pexels

By Greg McDermid, Joule A Bergerson, Sheri Madigan

Hidden among all of the troubling environmental headlines from 2019 — and let's face it, there were plenty — was one encouraging sign: the world is waking up to the reality of climate change.

So now what?

Read More
Sponsored
Logging state in the U.S. is seen representing some of the consequences humans will face in the absence of concrete action to stop deforestation, pollution and the climate crisis. Mark Newman / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

Talk is cheap, says the acting executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, who begged governments around the world to make sure that 2020 is not another year of conferences and empty promises, but instead is the year to take decisive action to stop the mass extinction of wildlife and the destruction of habitat-sustaining ecosystems, as The Guardian reported.

Read More
The people of Kiribati have been under pressure to relocate due to sea level rise. A young woman wades through the salty sea water that flooded her way home on Sept. 29, 2015. Jonas Gratzer / LightRocket via Getty Images

Refugees fleeing the impending effects of the climate crisis cannot be forced to return home, according to a new decision by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, as CNN reported. The new decision could open up a massive wave of legal claims by displaced people around the world.

Read More
The first day of the Strike WEF march on Davos on Jan. 18, 2020 near Davos, Switzerland. The activists want climate justice and think the WEF is for the world's richest and political elite only. Kristian Buus / In Pictures via Getty Images

By Ashutosh Pandey

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is returning to the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the 2020 World Economic Forum with a strong and clear message: put an end to the fossil fuel "madness."

Read More