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Climate change

Global sea-level rise could be double our current predictions

Rising water in Washington, DC
Rising water in Washington, DC
Rising water in Washington, DCAssociated Press

The estimate has been revised upwards because ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting more rapidly than expected.

New predictions: In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that sea levels around the world would rise by between 52 and 98 centimeters by 2100. However, a new study in PNAS by a group of 22 researchers predicts that the real level could exceed two meters, if emissions growth continues along current trends—an outcome they describe as “plausible.”

The impact: This scenario would lead to the loss of 1.8 million square kilometers of land, including critical areas of food production, and displace up to 187 million people.

Complexity and uncertainty: The study includes some vast ranges of possibilities. The authors say this is because improved understanding of ice loss has increased the bounds of uncertainty. However, they are confident that previous estimates were too conservative.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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