Arctic warming to boost rise of sea levels

May 3, 2011

Global sea levels will rise faster than expected this century, partly because of quickening climate change in the Arctic and a thaw of Greenland’s ice, an international report said Tuesday.

The rise would add to threats to coasts from Bangladesh to Florida, low-lying Pacific islands and cities from London to Shanghai. It would also raise the cost of building tsunami barriers in Japan.

Record temperatures in the Arctic will add to factors raising world sea levels by up to 5.2 feet by 2100, according to a report by the Oslo-based Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), which is backed by the eight-nation Arctic Council.

“The past six years [until 2010] have been the warmest period ever recorded in the Arctic,” the report said.

“In the future, global sea level is projected to rise by 0.9 metres [3 feet] to 1.6 metres [5.2 feet] by 2100 and the loss of ice from Arctic glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland ice sheet will make a substantial contribution,” it added.

The rises were projected from 1990 levels.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its last major study in 2007 that world sea levels were likely to rise by between 7 and 23 inches by 2100. Those numbers did not include a possible acceleration of a thaw in polar regions.

Foreign ministers from Arctic Council nations — the United States, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland — are due to meet in Greenland on May 12.

“The increase in annual average temperature since 1980 has been twice as high over the Arctic as it has been over the rest of the world,” the report said. Temperatures were higher than at any time in the past 2,000 years, it added.

The IPCC also said it was at least 90 percent probable that human emissions of greenhouse gases, led by burning fossil fuels, were to blame for most warming in recent decades.

— Reuters

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