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Sea-level rise and its possible impacts given a ‘beyond 4°C world’ in the twenty-first century

Sea-level rise and its possible impacts given a ‘beyond 4°C world’ in the twenty-first century
Sea-level rise and its possible impacts given a ‘beyond 4°C world’ in the twenty-first century
The range of future climate-induced sea-level rise remains highly uncertain with continued concern that large increases in the twenty-first century cannot be ruled out. The biggest source of uncertainty is the response of the large ice sheets of Greenland and west Antarctica. Based on our analysis, a pragmatic estimate of sea-level rise by 2100, for a temperature rise of 4°C or more over the same time frame, is between 0.5?m and 2?m—the probability of rises at the high end is judged to be very low, but of unquantifiable probability. However, if realized, an indicative analysis shows that the impact potential is severe, with the real risk of the forced displacement of up to 187 million people over the century (up to 2.4% of global population). This is potentially avoidable by widespread upgrade of protection, albeit rather costly with up to 0.02 per cent of global domestic product needed, and much higher in certain nations. The likelihood of protection being successfully implemented varies between regions, and is lowest in small islands, Africa and parts of Asia, and hence these regions are the most likely to see coastal abandonment. To respond to these challenges, a multi-track approach is required, which would also be appropriate if a temperature rise of less than 4°C was expected. Firstly, we should monitor sea level to detect any significant accelerations in the rate of rise in a timely manner. Secondly, we need to improve our understanding of the climate-induced processes that could contribute to rapid sea-level rise, especially the role of the two major ice sheets, to produce better models that quantify the likely future rise more precisely. Finally, responses need to be carefully considered via a combination of climate mitigation to reduce the rise and adaptation for the residual rise in sea level. In particular, long-term strategic adaptation plans for the full range of possible sea-level rise (and other change) need to be widely developed.
161-181
Nicholls, R.J.
4ce1e355-cc5d-4702-8124-820932c57076
Marinova, N
bfd7f71c-9f20-45d7-873e-c8fbdb6680b9
Lowe, J.A.
16f7a8e7-f872-4801-8f57-c305ffb1106d
Brown, S.
dd3c5852-78cc-435a-9846-4f3f540f2840
Gusmão, D
5666e603-6c36-43d3-934e-159559d2da8e
Hinkel, J
757916c3-aa74-4fbf-b96d-ce86eeff03e3
Tol, R.S.J.
9952d2ed-15c7-47a6-9b0a-1021926582bd
Nicholls, R.J.
4ce1e355-cc5d-4702-8124-820932c57076
Marinova, N
bfd7f71c-9f20-45d7-873e-c8fbdb6680b9
Lowe, J.A.
16f7a8e7-f872-4801-8f57-c305ffb1106d
Brown, S.
dd3c5852-78cc-435a-9846-4f3f540f2840
Gusmão, D
5666e603-6c36-43d3-934e-159559d2da8e
Hinkel, J
757916c3-aa74-4fbf-b96d-ce86eeff03e3
Tol, R.S.J.
9952d2ed-15c7-47a6-9b0a-1021926582bd

Nicholls, R.J., Marinova, N, Lowe, J.A., Brown, S., Gusmão, D, Hinkel, J and Tol, R.S.J. (2011) Sea-level rise and its possible impacts given a ‘beyond 4°C world’ in the twenty-first century. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 369 (1934), 161-181. (doi:10.1098/rsta.2010.0291).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The range of future climate-induced sea-level rise remains highly uncertain with continued concern that large increases in the twenty-first century cannot be ruled out. The biggest source of uncertainty is the response of the large ice sheets of Greenland and west Antarctica. Based on our analysis, a pragmatic estimate of sea-level rise by 2100, for a temperature rise of 4°C or more over the same time frame, is between 0.5?m and 2?m—the probability of rises at the high end is judged to be very low, but of unquantifiable probability. However, if realized, an indicative analysis shows that the impact potential is severe, with the real risk of the forced displacement of up to 187 million people over the century (up to 2.4% of global population). This is potentially avoidable by widespread upgrade of protection, albeit rather costly with up to 0.02 per cent of global domestic product needed, and much higher in certain nations. The likelihood of protection being successfully implemented varies between regions, and is lowest in small islands, Africa and parts of Asia, and hence these regions are the most likely to see coastal abandonment. To respond to these challenges, a multi-track approach is required, which would also be appropriate if a temperature rise of less than 4°C was expected. Firstly, we should monitor sea level to detect any significant accelerations in the rate of rise in a timely manner. Secondly, we need to improve our understanding of the climate-induced processes that could contribute to rapid sea-level rise, especially the role of the two major ice sheets, to produce better models that quantify the likely future rise more precisely. Finally, responses need to be carefully considered via a combination of climate mitigation to reduce the rise and adaptation for the residual rise in sea level. In particular, long-term strategic adaptation plans for the full range of possible sea-level rise (and other change) need to be widely developed.

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Published date: January 2011
Organisations: Energy & Climate Change Group

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 204649
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/204649
PURE UUID: 6469aed3-eeeb-4845-a42e-3f297a26eca1
ORCID for R.J. Nicholls: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-9715-1109
ORCID for S. Brown: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-1185-1962

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Date deposited: 01 Dec 2011 11:11
Last modified: 18 Feb 2021 17:11

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