Report Forecasts Sea Level Rise to 4 feet by 2100
by Gerard Reid
According to a new report led by the U.S. Geological Survey, we "face the
possibility of much more rapid climate change than previous studies have
suggested." The new report synthesizes the latest published evidence on
four specific threats for the 21st century. It uses studies not available to
the UN's IPCC 2007 report which explored similar questions.
The report, commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program,
found that in light of recent ice sheet melting, global sea levels could rise
as much as 4 feet (1.2 metres) by 2100. The IPCC had projected a rise of
no more than 1.5 feet by that time, but satellite data over the last two
years show the world's major ice sheets are melting much more rapidly
than previously thought. The Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are
losing an average of 48 cubic miles of ice a year, equivalent to twice the
amount of ice in the Alps. The models used by the IPCC did not factor in
the dynamic where warmer ocean water under coastal ice sheets
accelerates melting. (About 600 million people currently live in low lying
The report also found that the drought which began in the North American
Southwest about 6 years ago could be the leading edge of a new climate
regime for a wider region. Edward Cook, climatologist at the
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, says that periodic droughts over the
past 1,000 years have been made more intense and persistent by climate
warming. Cook told the press conference, "What this tells us is that the
system has the ability to lock into periods of profound, long-lasting aridity."
Cook added: "If the system tips, that would have catastrophic effects on
human activities and populations over wide areas."
The panel said two other systemic changes seem less imminent, but are
still of concern. Vast quantities of methane gas are locked in ocean
sediments, wetlands and permafrost. If these are destabilized by global
warming it would create blowouts that would cause an abrupt temperature
shift. The panel said blowouts appear unlikely in the next 100 years but
steady emissions of methane could double. Tom Armstrong, senior adviser
for global change programs at USGS, explained, "This is one of those
things that keep people up at night, it's a low-probability but high-risk
scenario. If it were to occur, it would be life-changing...We need to be
prepared to deal with it. There are no policies in place to deal with abrupt
The panel also looked at the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean, which
sends warm water north and cold water south, warming Western Europe.
Some scientists say the circulation could collapse if enough ice melts and
dilutes the salty Atlantic. The panel found this scenario unlikely in the short
term, but warned that the Gulf Stream's circulation strength might decline
25% to 30% by 2100.
It was clear that sea ice melt has accelerated considerably over the past 2
years. This report confirms those observations. When the first climate
models predicted the North Pole could be ice free by 2100, it was met with
disbelief and called alarmist at best. It is now clear that the Arctic will be ice
free by 2030 and that climate change is accelerating. Nations are laying
claim to mineral rights in an ice free Arctic and shipping companies are
calculating routes over the North Pole. The U.S. Climate Change Report
tells us that climate deterioration is worse than we thought. If no action is
taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; the human risks will be
A cooler year on a warming planet
According to the NASA group, 2008 was between the 7th and 12th
warmest since systematic meteorological record-keeping began in 1880.
But the report noted that the 9 warmest years on record have occurred
since 1998. James E. Hansen, the head of NASA's Goddard Institute
explained that the decades-long global warming trend remains consistent
with a growing influence from heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
Some statistics specialists have taken issue with some of the Goddard
Institute's methods, but the differences between NASA's findings and those
of independent British groups are "very small," said David Parker of the
Hadley Centre. The Hadley along with the Climatic Research Unit at the
University of East Anglia called 2008 the 10th warmest since 1850. In a
news release, Peter Stott of the Climate Centre stated, "Without human
influence on climate change we would be more than 50 times less likely of
seeing a year as warm as 2008."
Reprinted from Alternative Energy Newsletter, Oikovest GmbH.