25 Sept 2019 - Growing coastal flooding is inevitable, and damage to corals and other marine life has already been unleashed. But scientists say the world still has time to avert even more severe consequences.
Climate change is already having staggering effects on oceans and ice-filled regions that encompass 80 percent of the Earth, and future damage from rising seas and melting glaciers is now all but certain, according to a sobering new report from the United Nations.
The warming climate is killing coral reefs, supercharging monster storms, and fueling deadly marine heat waves and record losses of sea ice. And Wednesday’s report on the world’s oceans, glaciers, polar regions and ice sheets finds that such effects foreshadow a more catastrophic future as long as greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked.
Given current emissions levels, a number of serious effects are essentially unavoidable, says the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Hundred-year floods will become an annual occurrence by 2050 in some cities and small island nations, according to the IPCC. Several of those cities are in the United States, including its second largest, Los Angeles.
“What more evidence do we need?" said Eric Garcetti, LA’s mayor, in response to the report. "These are our streets flooding, these are our homes burning, and in cities, we know this is real, and this is not just about resilience, it’s about adaptability.”
If emissions continue to increase, global sea levels could rise by more than three feet by the end of this century — about 12 percent higher than the group estimated as recently as 2013. Melting glaciers could harm water supplies, and warming oceans could wreck marine fisheries.
“As a result of excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the ocean today is higher, warmer, more acidic, less productive and holds less oxygen,” said Jane Lubchenco, a former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “The conclusion is inescapable: The impacts of climate change on the ocean are well underway. Unless we take very serious action very soon, these impacts will get worse — much, much worse.”
More than 100 scientists from around the world contributed to the latest report by the IPCC, which comes on the heels of several other warnings the group has issued recently. Last fall, the IPCC said the world must make rapid, far-reaching changes to energy, transportation and other systems to hold warming below an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, a key threshold in the Paris climate agreement.