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Scientists Say Rising Sea Levels Cannot Be Stopped

Scientists Say Rising Sea Levels Cannot Be Stopped
7/3/2012 8:52 AM ET

Stringent emission cuts could stabilize global temperature increases, but they cannot stop rising sea levels, said scientists in a study published online Sunday in the journal Nature.

The climate scientists also said that sea levels will keep increasing for the next several hundred years, but the rate of increase can be curtailed by deep emission cuts.

The scientists from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, research firm Climate Central and Center for Australian Weather and Climate Research in Melbourne determined that the most quantifiable factor for sea-level rise is thermal expansion of sea water.

They noted as warming temperatures penetrate deep into the sea, water warms and expands, thereby elevating the sea level. This could get worse by the melting of ice sheets and glaciers due to continuous rise in global temperatures.

The scientists have calculated that even with the deepest of emission cuts and global temperatures cooling to 0.83 degree Celsius in 2100 - a forecast based on the 1986-2005 average - and 0.55 degrees by 2300, the sea levels would rise from 14.2 centimeters in the year 2100 to 20.7 centimeters in 2200 and 24.2 centimeters in 2300.

On the other hand, if the emission cuts were to be weak, temperatures could rise to 3.91 degrees Celsius and the sea level could increase to 32.3 centimeters in 2100. It could further increase to 139.4 centimeters by 2300.

Under the UN's Kyoto Protocol, over 180 countries have agreed on targets for reducing industrial emission of carbon dioxide, which is suspected of increasing the rate of global warming. Governments have agreed to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. According to scientists, this is the minimum required to avert catastrophic effects.

"Though sea-level rise cannot be stopped for at least the next several hundred years, with aggressive mitigation it can be slowed down, and this would buy time for adaptation measures to be adopted," the scientists added.

by RTT Staff Writer

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