Sea levels to rise several metres this century

Wednesday, 27 June, 2007

Australia's sea levels will rise by several metres by the end of the century due to rapidly increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, according to research from a group of international scientists.

Led by James Hansen from NASA's Goddard Institute, the group warns that the earth is 'perilously' close to entering a new era of dangerous runaway climate change. The peer-reviewed paper predicts that humans have less than 10 years to make substantial reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions to avoid dangerous climate change.

The West Antarctic ice sheet, in particular, has the potential to add over five metres to global sea levels within two centuries when collapsed.

"This paper spells devastation for Australia," said Matthew Wright, lead spokesman for Beyond Zero Emissions.

"The impact of the predicted sea level rise will have cataclysmic effects for the millions of Australians in coastal communities around the nation. The events in New South Wales recently are just a small taste of what's to come."

Global greenhouse gas concentrations have increased by a third in the past two hundred years, and currently sit at 430 ppm CO2e (Carbon Dioxide equivalents). Hansen has presented evidence that shows the planet has already entered 'serious' climate change conditions, which will tip into 'dangerous' at approximately 450 ppm CO2e.

"This paper proves that we have to act now," said Wright. "There is little point setting 2020 or 2050 greenhouse gas reduction targets. We have too much carbon in the air right now, in 2007.

"We are placing our planet and ourselves at unacceptable risk. We simply must reduce our global greenhouse gases emissions to zero as soon as possible, and then to naturally extract the remaining carbon excess from the atmosphere."

The IPCC had forecast that global warming would result in a rise of between 18 and 59 cm. However, Dr Jim Hansen, climatologist with NASA argues that the UN panel did not take into account melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

"That's beginning to lose mass and it is situated on bedrock which is below sea level, so it's potentially unstable and could give a very large sea-level rise," said Hansen.

Beyond Zero Emissions is calling on the Australian government to take global leadership and to legislate national zero emission targets.

Jim Hansen, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies will be speaking at the Zero Emissions Conference to be held at RMIT Melbourne, 30 June-1 July.

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