The best scenario for the climate crisis looks increasingly disastrous for much of the world, especially when it comes to rising sea levels.
Even if we manage to limit global warming to below 2° Celsius, according to the Paris Climate Agreement, by 2100 many coastal regions could face extreme and rare threats. Such as storms, high tides, and threatening waves, at least once a year instead of once a century.
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This represents a 100-fold increase in coastal flooding. According to the new global models, this is if we’re lucky. If we do nothing to change our behavior, the world could soon pass 2°C warming, at which point sea level scenarios will rapidly deteriorate.
Recent projections for more than 7,000 coastal sites around the world suggest that 1.5°C warming will cause extreme events in at least half of the sites studied. At 2°C heating, another 14% will experience the same by 2100.
Probably, some places will suffer these effects even sooner. Under the 1.5°C scenario, for example, some coastal locations could experience a 100-fold increase in extreme events at sea level as early as the 2070s.
The authors of the study published in Nature say this is “overwhelmingly true” for places in the tropics such as Hawaii and the Caribbean, as well as the southern half of the Pacific coast of North America. All of which seem particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels.
As more sea ice melts, parts of the Mediterranean coast and the Arabian Peninsula could also become targets for extreme storms at sea level.
“The tropics seem more sensitive than the northern high latitudes, where some places don’t change the frequency of events, even at the highest levels of global warming.”
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