20% of the world’s population will migrate by sea-level rise

Sea-level rising: populations at risk

Even if global warming is capped at 2C, 20% of the world’s population will have to migrate away from coasts swamped by rising oceans. 

Even if global warming is capped at governments’ target of 2C, 20% of the world’s population will be to migrate to higher area’s because of rising sea levels.

Countries like the Netherlands and Bangladesh and cities including New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Calcutta, Jakarta and Shanghai would all be submerged because of melting polar ice caps and sea-level rise.

Huge sea-level rises

Huge sea-level rises caused by climate change will last far longer than the entire history of human civilization to date, according to new research, unless we will be able to cut carbon emissions drastically.

“Much of the carbon we are putting in the air from burning fossil fuels will stay there for thousands of years,” said Prof Peter Clark, at Oregon State University in the US and who led the new work.

“People need to understand that the effects of climate change won’t go away, at least not for thousands of generations.”

25 meters

The research shows that even with climate change limited to 2C by tough emissions cuts, sea level would rise by 25 meters over the next 2,000 years. If today’s burning of coal, oil and gas is not curbed, the sea would rise by 50m, completely changing the map of the world.

Even the Dutch can’t built 25m high seawalls. Millions will be on the run because of the sea-level rises.

“Sea-level rise is already baked into the system,” said Prof Stocker, one of the world’s leading climate scientists.

Recapture the carbon

However, the rise could be reduced and delayed if carbon is removed from the atmosphere in the future, Prof Stocker said.

“If you are very optimistic and think we will be in the position by 2050 or 2070 to have a global scale carbon removal scheme, we could lower the CO2 levels.

A further difficulty is the large amount of heat and CO2 already stored in the oceans.

The success of the UN climate summit in Paris, and of every future meeting, must be evaluated not only by levels of national commitments, but also by looking at how they will lead ultimately to the point when zero-carbon energy systems.

The actions of the next 30 years are absolutely crucial for putting us on a path that avoids the [worst] outcomes and ensuring, at least in the next 200 years, the impacts are limited and give us time to adapt.

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