Levels Are Rising
Faster Than Predicted
By Michael McCarthy
21 September 2006
global sea level rise caused by climate change, severely threatening
many of the world's coastal and low-lying areas from Bangladesh to East
Anglia, is proceeding faster than UN scientists predicted only five
years ago, Professor Chris Rapley, director of the British Antarctic
Survey, said yesterday.
Climate change is causing
sea levels to rise around the world because water expands in volume
as it warms, and because land-based ice, such as that contained in the
Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, adds to the volume when it melts
and slips into the sea.
The present prediction of
the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, from its third assessment
report in 2001, is that global sea levels will rise by between 9cm and
88cm by 2100, depending on a number of factors including how far emissions
are controlled, with a best guess of about 50cm over the century.
Rises of this order will
present a substantial threat of flooding, storm surge and even complete
submersion of many of the world's populous low-lying areas,such as Bangladesh,
the Nile Delta and even London.
But the new evidence, from
a series of scientific papers published this year, indicates that this
rate would be exceeded, said Professor Rapley, who runs the world's
leading institute on Antarctic science - although he could not say what
any new rate would be.
Professor Rapley was speaking
at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, at a meeting of the
Climate Clinic, formed by Britain's leading green groups, with The Independent
as media partner, to press for tougher political action on climate change.
"We have learned in the last 18 months that the ice sheets are
capable in selected areas of much more rapid changes and dynamic discharges
than we previously thought," he said.
Last week, two American studies
showed that the melting of the winter sea ice in the Arctic had accelerated
enormously in the past two years, with a section the size of Turkey
disappearing in just 12 months.
© 2006 Independent News
and Media Limited