A specially-selected panel of 26 scientific experts is warning that by the end of the century, nearly 200 million people may be forced to leave their homes due to the rising sea level. Melting ice sheets now contribute to 30% of the sea level rise, a marked difference from the 10% in the 1990s.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The findings stand in stark contrast to the 2006 forecast by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) when the panel predicted a rise between 18cm and 59cm. In fact, the rate of melting experienced by the polar ice sheets may be so severe that sea level may rise by one meter by 2100. This level is considered catastrophic.
At a minimum, posit the experts, sea level will increase by 29cm over the course of the century, but there is a 1 in 20 chance that may exceed 84cm, a conceivable risk which is greater than the 1 meter estimate.
Regardless of the specific rise in sea level, there will be serious consequences to all low lying countries and some of the largest cities in the world. Even New York and London have coastal ports, so even small rises facilitate potentially major flooding from tidal surges and storms. Experts estimate that flooding would affect up to 187 million people and may possibly leave them homeless.
Scientists are puzzled as to the acceleration of the melting of the polar ice sheets. Antarctic and Artic ice sheet melting is only one of several contributors to rising sea levels, but it is likely to make an increasing contribution by the end of the century.