(ORDO NEWS) — According to a study by a team of scientists from Durham University, the world’s largest ice sheet could cause sea levels to rise by “several meters” over the centuries if global temperatures rise by more than two degrees Celsius.
If global greenhouse gas emissions remain this high, the melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS*) could lead to sea level rise of nearly half a meter by 2100. The results of the study were published in the scientific journal Nature.
*EAIS is a huge ice sheet with an area of about 10 million square kilometers and a diameter of more than 4,000 kilometers.
Global catastrophe of the future
The authors of the study found that if emissions remain high, the inevitable melting of the EAIS will raise global sea levels by 1-3 meters by 2300 and by 2-5 meters by 2500.
However, according to scientists, if emissions are drastically reduced, the melting of the EAIS will contribute to a sea level rise of only 2 centimeters by 2100. This will be much less than the expected loss of ice in Greenland and West Antarctica.
“The key takeaway from our study is that the fate of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is largely in our hands,” said Chris Stokes, lead author of the study, from Durham University’s Department of Geography.
“Today, this ice sheet is the largest on the planet, its height is equivalent to 52 meters of sea level, and it is very important that we do not wake this sleeping giant.”
“Limiting global temperature rise to below the two degrees Celsius set by the Paris Climate Agreement should mean we avoid worst-case scenarios or perhaps even halt the melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and therefore limit its impact on global sea level rise. ”, he added.
The study notes that the projected worst-case scenarios are “very unlikely”. At the UN climate change conference in Paris in 2015, world leaders agreed to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and make every effort to keep warming below 1.5 degrees.
The expert team, which included scientists from Australia, the UK, the US and France, analyzed how the ice sheet has reacted to past warm spells to come up with their predictions.
They ran computer simulations to estimate the impact of different levels of greenhouse gases and temperatures on the ice sheet by 2100, 2300 and 2500.
Evidence has been found that three million years ago, when temperatures were about 2-4 degrees Celsius warmer than they are now, part of the EAIS “collapsed and contributed to a few meters of sea level rise.”
“Even as recently as 400,000 years ago not that long ago by geological standards there is evidence that part of the EAIS retreated 700 kilometers inland in response to global warming of just 1-2 degrees,” the researchers commented.
Nerili Abram, co-author of the study at the Australian National University in Canberra, warned that EAIS “is not as stable and secure as we once thought.”
The future of the Earth is in our hands.
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