One billion people threatened by rapid sea-level rise – IPCC

25th September 2019

Web sea level rise istock 1159985128

Related Topics

Related tags

  • sea ice loss ,
  • Adaptation ,
  • Marine ,
  • Global


Michelle Furtado

A rapid sea-level rise caused by warming oceans and melting ice sheets and glaciers could impact 1 billion by 2050, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned today in a landmark report.

Authored by 100 experts from 36 countries, the report warns that no part of the world will be spared from the impact of climate change on oceans and the cryosphere, and that the changes could be irreversible.

It highlights how the sea level increased by around 15cm during the twentieth century, and claims this could rise to 60cm by 2100 even if greenhouse gas emissions are cut sharply, and increase to 110cm if emissions grow strongly.

Some island nations are likely to become uninhabitable due to climate-related ocean and cryosphere change, according to the report, with the sea level continuing to rise for centuries.

The researchers also forecast changes in water availability, and increase in marine heatwaves, a rise in storms, the extinction of ice-dependent species like polar bears, and the continued acidification of the ocean.

Launched at the UN's Climate Summit in New York, the report outlines the benefits of ambitious and effective adaptation for sustainable development, and the escalating costs and risks of delayed action.

“The world's ocean and cryosphere have been 'taking the heat' from climate change for decades, and consequences for nature and humanity are sweeping and severe,“ said Ko Barrett, vice-chair of the IPCC.

“By understanding the causes of these changes and the resulting impacts, and by evaluating options that are available, we can strengthen our ability to adapt.“

A total of 670 million people in high mountain regions, and 680 million people in low-lying coastal zones, depend directly on the ocean and the cryosphere – the frozen parts of the planet.

The report gives evidence of the benefits of combining scientific with local and indigenous knowledge to develop suitable options to manage climate change risks to these systems and enhance resilience.

However, it also warns that damage to oceans and the cryosphere will lower humanity's ability to mitigate and adapt to climate impacts, and urges nations to be more ambitious with their emission reduction targets.

“The more decisively and the earlier we act, the more able we will be to address unavoidable changes, manage risks, improve our lives and achieve sustainability for ecosystems and people around the world ,“ said Debra Roberts, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II.

“The ambitious climate policies and emissions reductions required to deliver the Paris Agreement will also protect the ocean and cryosphere – and ultimately sustain all life on Earth.“

Image credit: ©iStock


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

UK off track for net zero by 2030, CCC warns

Only a third of the emission reductions required for the UK to achieve net zero by 2030 are covered by credible plans, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has warned today.

18th July 2024

Read more

Almost three-fifths of UK environmental professionals feel there is a green skills gap across the country’s workforce, or that there will be, a new survey has uncovered.

4th July 2024

Read more

Climate hazards such as flooding, droughts and extreme heat are threatening eight in 10 of the world’s cities, new research from CDP has uncovered.

3rd July 2024

Read more

Ahead of the UK general election next month, IEMA has analysed the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Green Party manifestos in relation to the sustainability agenda.

19th June 2024

Read more

Nine in 10 UK adults do not fully trust brands to accurately portray their climate commitments or follow the science all the time, a new survey has uncovered.

19th June 2024

Read more

Just one in 20 workers aged 27 and under have the skills needed to help drive the net-zero transition, compared with one in eight of the workforce as a whole, new LinkedIn data suggests.

18th June 2024

Read more

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close