Climate change experts are advising against purchasing coastal property as research shows there will be an unparalleled ice melt within the next 30 years.
According to a report by United Nations scientists, no part of the planet will escape the climate crisis as oceans warm and glaciers and ice sheets melt. Sea levels are now rising by 3.6mm per year, more than twice the rate of the last century.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that rising sea levels, water shortages and the unpredictable availability of food will affect around one billion people. The report, compiled by more than 100 expert climate scientists, urges ambitious and co-ordinated action.
The research findings are confirmed by scientists in the Arctic who showed journalists evidence of the scale of the ice melt and advised against buying coastal property.
Debra Roberts, one of the IPCC authors, called on world leaders to maximise efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep the global rise in temperature to below two degrees Centigrade, as agreed in Paris in 2015.
Roberts said that if we act promptly and resolutely, we will be able to tackle unavoidable changes and manage risks. We can also improve our lives and achieve sustainability for people and ecosystems across the world from now on.
Shrinking snow cover
The report, The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, states that the consequences of higher air temperatures in polar regions are gathering pace at an alarming rate.
Since 1967, arctic snow cover has shrunk by one million square miles. The spread of sea ice at the end of the summer melt season this year was at its second lowest on record, a situation “unprecedented for 1,000 years at least”.
650 billion tonnes of ice were lost from Greenland, Antarctica and the world’s glaciers per year between 2006 and 2015. Journalists were taken to a glacier near Ny Alesund, a research base on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, 800 miles from the North Pole.
The glacier had thinned by more than two metres since the spring, as recorded by measuring poles in the ice. Worse still, the ice won’t be replaced during the winter because of reduced snowfall. Jack Kohler, of the Norwegian Polar Institute said that the situation is without parallel. The ice melt is increasing sea levels and will continue and gain momentum.
Kohler added that the environmental damage won’t be limited to the Arctic and repeated the warning not to buy coastal property.
Rise in sea levels
The IPCC scientists have increased their predictions of the future rise in sea levels as evidence mounts that the Antarctic ice sheet is becoming less stable and prone to breaking up.
If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate, the rise in sea levels will increase to several centimetres per year in the 22nd century and several metres per year in the 23rd century.
Floods and storm surges that happen once in a century are predicted to occur at least once a year across the globe by 2100. Dr Helene Hewitt, head of ocean modelling at the UK’s Met Office, explained that the IPCC report links future rises in sea levels to increased risk of coastal floods.
As a result, extreme sea level events that have been historically rare will become more common by 2100. UKCP climate projections show that sea levels will continue to rise, with a potential increase in London of more than one metre by 2100 in the worst-case scenario of no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
One consequence would be that glaciers in high mountainous areas will shrink, while some in the Alps will disappear altogether.
Call to action
Dr Stephen Cornelius, World Wildlife Fund chief adviser on climate change, has said it would be grossly irresponsible to gamble with people’s lives. Leaders must act now to safeguard the planet and achieve swift and effective cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. They must also increase funding substantially to enable adaptability and resilience.