Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on April 25, 2008
Picture a world map. Now picture it without Bangladesh. Less than 100 years from now, this may become our new world order. A new scientific study has confirmed that sea levels are rising faster than expected and could go as high as 1.5 meters by 2100. This figure is far greater than the one forecast by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose conservative estimate was for an average rise of 28-45 centimeters.
This new data comes from a British/Finnish team who used a computer model to look at the relationship between sea levels and temperature. “For the past 2,000 years, the [global average] sea level was very stable, it only varied by about 20cm,” said Svetlana Jevrejeva from the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory (POL), as quoted by the BBC. “But by the end of the century, we predict it will rise by between 0.8m and 1.5m. The rapid rise in the coming years is associated with the rapid melting of ice sheets.”
The model uses accurately recorded tide gauges for the past 300 years. But for the 1,700 years previous to that, the evidence is not of the numeral persuasion. “There is some limited archaeological evidence [based on] the sill heights of fish enclosures that the Romans used, that’s probably the strongest evidence that there hasn’t been any significant change in sea level over the last 2,000 years.” said POL’s Simon Holgate.
“There’s a lot of evidence out there that we’re going to see at least a metre of sea level rise by 2100,” said Steve Nerem from the University of Colorado. “We’re seeing big changes in Greenland, we’re seeing big changes in West Antarctica, so we’re expecting this to show up in the sea level data as an increase in the rate we’ve been observing.”
One of the hardest hit countries will be Bangladesh, which is nestled in the Ganges delta. For a country where 150 million people live in area of 55,000 square miles — 90% of which is within a meter of sea level — that’s a potential humanitarian crisis on an unimaginable scale.