Melting ice: Limiting global warming to 1.5°C could reduce sea level rise by 50 percent

05/05/2021 - If efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels are successful, the overall sea level rise caused by melting of ice would be effectively halved. This is the central finding of a new study by an international team of researchers – including Ronja Reese, Ricarda Winkelmann, Torsten Albrecht and Reinhard Calov from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research – which examines the land ice contribution to sea levels in the 21st century arising from the world’s glaciers and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
Melting ice: Limiting global warming to 1.5°C could reduce sea level rise by 50 percent
Photo: Henrique Setim/Unsplash

Current pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by most nations are not sufficient to meet the 1.5°C limit. However, if countries update their commitments accordingly, the world would see a significantly less severe increase in coastal flooding by the end of this century: “If pledges were far more ambitious, central predictions for sea level rise from melting ice would be reduced from 25 cm to 13 cm in 2100,” lead author Tamsin Edwards from King's College London said.

While Greenland ice sheet losses would be reduced by 70%, and glacier losses by 50% as compared to current pledges, predictions of how much Antarctica will contribute to sea level rise under different scenarios are more difficult: As of now it is unclear whether snow falling in the cold interior of the ice sheet will offset melting at the coasts. Yet, in their most pessimistic scenario Antarctic ice losses could be five times larger than in optimistic outlooks.

For their predictions, published in Nature, Edwards and his more than 80 co-authors combined a total of 900 simulations from 38 international institutions. The results will inform the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Sixth Assessment report which will be published later this year.

Read the article:

Tamsin Edwards et al. (2021): Projected land ice contributions to 21st century sea level rise. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03302-y


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