Saturday, December 4, 2021

New tool predicts the Earth’s landscape as sea levels rise

How will climate change change the Earth’s landscape over the next few hundred years? New interactive tools developed by researchers at Climate Central may paint that picture.

The instruments show how much sea level can rise if carbon pollution levels change or not. If the change is not made, Ben Strauss, CEO and chief scientist of Climate Central, a consortium of independent scientists and journalists based in Princeton, NJ, said millions of people living along the coast would be at risk, and Asia would be the region of the world most at risk. . Of all the countries at risk, Vietnam has the highest risk from rising sea levels.

In the United States, there are also “a lot of threats” in the Bay Area, in South Florida, Boston, New York City and California, Strauss said.

Hanoi, Vietnam, the nation’s capital, could be below sea level if the current rate of warming on Earth continues. Image courtesy of Climate Central

The graphics show what various landmarks around the world will look like in 2100, with 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) warming and 3 °C (5.4 °F) warming. With 1.5 C warming, research suggests that sea level will rise 1.5 feet by the year 2100, if the Earth warms 3 C, resulting in sea level rise of 21 feet by 2100.

“This study really looks at long-term sea levels where the threat would be permanent and complete flooding,” Strauss said. “There is certainly the possibility of building strongholds, but we have to ask how deep they want to be in the bowl.”

New tool predicts the Earth's landscape as sea levels rise
Yellow shows which parts of Florida will be under water if global warming continues to increase at a rate of 3 °C, while purple shows if global warming continues to increase by only 1.5 °C. So which parts will be under water. Image courtesy of Climate Central

Some 50 cities around the world are at risk of losing their most developed areas to rising sea levels.

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“Even the low end is serious, but we will have some time to deal with it,” he said.

Under “best conditions,” Strauss said, sea levels could rise by 5-10 feet over the next few centuries, with a worst-case scenario of 30 feet or more.

“The whole point of our research was to show how big a choice we have,” Strauss said. “It’s really a choice between a manageable future and one where sea levels will rise so much that many of our great coastal cities are likely to be lost.”

According to Climate Central, some of the “most ambitious” goals of the Paris climate agreement would cut risk by about 50.

Strauss said the rise would occur over several centuries, but the study focused primarily on how much sea level would rise — not how quickly — because the speed of the rise can be very difficult to predict.

“Think about your freezer. If you unplug your freezer, you know it’s going to thaw, but you don’t know how many things will thaw or when it’ll all thaw,” Strauss said. “The same thing is true when you make scientific estimates of sea level rise.”

The increase may not reach its full effect for a few centuries, but what is done now to reduce it is important. Strauss said that actions taken over the next few decades will “lock-in” the future for many of these historic places that once stood the test of time.

In many cities, mitigation efforts can be very expensive or sea levels may be very high, so saving them may be unrealistic at the time. Once the carbon is in the air, Strauss said it will continue to warm the planet for centuries to come.

“There will be relocation and loss of the great heritage of coastal places we have and all that,” Strauss said. “It’s up to us to stop it.”


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