Study: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Have Caused Irreversible Effects on Sea-Level Rise
October 2, 2012 7:47 PM
Emissions up until this point have ensured an irreversible sea-level rise of 1.1 meters by the year 3000
A new study has found that it's too late to reverse the
effects that greenhouse gas emissions will have
on sea levels over the next thousand years -- but we could lessen the impact of these effects if proper changes are made.
According to research by scientists at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Universit
é catholique de Louvain, greenhouse gas emissions produced up to this point has ensured an irreversible sea-level rise of 1.1 meters by the year 3000. This number could increase, they warn, if no action is taken to reduce these levels -- and the effects could extend into thousands of years into the future.
The research team came to this conclusion by modeling sea-level changes over thousands of years while including all of our planet's ice sheets and warming of the oceans into its projections. This includes glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. The team said this has never been done before.
Using a climate modeling system called LOVECLIM, the team analyzed several scenarios over the next thousand years. It found that there will be a sea-level rise of at least 1.1 meters by the year 3000, but if other certain emissions scenarios were followed, it could increase to 2.1, 4.1 or even 6.8 meters.
The study also found that the Greenland ice sheet was the cause of over half of the sea-level rises while thermal expansion of the ocean came in second place and glaciers/ice came in third.
"Ice sheets are very slow components in the climate system; they respond on time scales of thousands of years," said Professor Philippe Huybrechts, co-author of the study. "Together with the
long lifetime of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
, this inertia is the real poison on the climate system; anything we do now that changes the forcing in the climate system will necessarily have long consequences for the ice sheets and sea level.
"Ultimately, the current polar ice sheets store about 65 metres of equivalent sea level and if climatic warming will be severe and long-lasting, all ice will eventually melt. Mankind should limit the concentration of greenhouse gases at the lowest possible level as soon as possible. The only realistic option is a drastic reduction of the emissions. The lower the ultimate warming will be, the less severe the ultimate consequences will be."
This study was published in
Environmental Research Letters
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