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Urgent Collaboration Needed to Address Rising Global Sea Level

Dec 19, 2016 05:22 AM EST
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Climate change experts from Princeton and Penn State University are urging policymakers and scientists to become more active in collaborating to better prepare the international community for rising sea levels.

In their research that was featured in the journal Science, the climate change experts proposed that global mean sea level rise could reach over two meters by 2100. Compared to previous climate change estimates, this new data based on the latest understanding of how the Antarctic ice sheet has behaved in the past and how sensitive it is to future climate change is much higher and calls for more immediate action. Given the greater challenge the global community is now facing, there is a greater need for scientists and policymakers to make effective decisions about coastal policies to be made based on rapidly evolving projections.

"An effective approach to managing coastal risk should couple research priorities to policy needs, enabling judicious decision-making while focusing research on a few key questions," stated co-authors Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, and Richard Alley, a professor of geosciences at Penn State in their research titled 'How high will the seas rise?'

According to the researchers, scientific developments are being developed at too rapid a pace to be captured by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments. "Policy-makers are left without a means to contextualize recent estimates, which remain highly uncertain," the authors wrote. "But ignoring such estimates could prove disastrous."

If the world waits even a few more decades to find a solution to the growing problem of climate change, there could a much higher rise in sea level than just two meters.

"Scientists can contribute to improving the basis for policy judgments by presenting policy-makers with projections that are as fully probabilistic as possible while also characterizing deep uncertainties, rather than just handing the worst-case or most-likely estimates," warned Oppenheimer and Alley. "Coastal protection is a risk management issue, and risks cannot be fully managed outside a probabilistic context."

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