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How much will the sea level rise by 2050?

The COP26 is coming to an end, and many experts are worried that the global community is not on a path to reduce emissions to avoid massive sea-level rise.

The COP26 is coming to an end, and many experts are worried that the global community is not on a path to reduce emissions to avoid massive sea-level rise.
Abhishek ChinnappaGetty Images

The 26th Climate Change Conference of the Parties hosted in Glasgow will come to an end on Friday 12 November. No major announcements have yet to be made, but with two days left there is still time. After the signing of the Paris Climate Accords in 2015, the countries agreed to report and build upon their nationally determined contributions every five years.

The Paris Climate Accord is a voluntary based cooperative agreement wherein each country determines certain climate mitigation and adaptation targets called nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs are designed in a way that each contribution helps to keep global warming under the 1.5 °C (2.7 °F). However, NDCs are not binding and many climate scientists have reported that the targets set out in the 2015 agreement are not strong enough to keep warming under this level.

Since the agreement was signed, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reported that the situation is much more urgent than what many in the scientific community believed in 2015. The former chair of the IPCC, Sir Robert Watson warned leaders that to keep warming under 2℃, “countries need to double and triple their 2030 reduction commitments to be aligned with the Paris target.”

In a recent IPCC report on the implications of not keeping warming under 1.5℃, the authors reported that the initial impacts of warming will disproportionately harm "people who live in low and middle-income countries, some of which have [already begun to] experienced a decline in food security, which in turn is partly linked to rising migration and poverty."

An additional challenge was highlighted in a 2020 report which showed that the NDCs of many low-income countries on contingent on receiving international aid. This dependence on foreign funds is even greater now that the pandemic has decimated many economies around the world. The authors of the 2020 article found that the financial need to fulfill their NDCs far outweighed the current funding pledges made by wealthier countries.

Perils of avoiding action

Thirty years ago, world leaders did not know the totality of the consequences that inaction on climate change would have. Today, that is not the case. The international scientific community has outlined the horrors that people and the planet will face if emissions are not cut... and in some cases even if they are reduced.

Regardless of the threat, world leaders seem unable to take climate change seriously. Just before COP26 began, the leaders of the G-20 countries met in Italy where the climate was one of the main topics of conversation. During the event, almost all leaders were photographed throwing a coin into the Trevi fountain to summon good luck in confronting the crisis. The photo-op was widely condemned as silly and trivial as these leaders hold the power to make a sizeable difference in enacting an agenda that could avoid the environmental and human destruction that will follow continued inaction.

Late-night host, Stephan Colbert noted that it's “Not a great sign when global cooperation has reached the stage of ‘wish!

Sea-level rise

The rising sea level is one of the most pervasive issues in the discussion on climate change. The IPCC has reported that between now and 2050, water levels from melting sea ice are expected to increase sea levels between five and nine inches. This will have extremely damaging impacts on major cities along vulnerable coastlines.

Without intervention the following cities around the world could see massive destruction from rising sea levels.

What cities will be impacted by rising sea levels in the United States?

  • Miami, Florida
  • Atlantic City, New Jersey
  • Key West, Florida
  • Gavelston, Texas
  • Ocean City, Maryland
  • Seattle, Washington
  • St Pete Beach, Florida
  • Tybee Island, Georgia
  • Charleston Central, South Carolina
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Los Angeles, California
  • San Diego, California
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Hoboken, New Jersey
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • New York, New York

Source: The Travel

In New York City, the most populous in the US, experts believe that by 2050 the Big Apple could see an increase between four to eight inches which could begin to cause problems. Other models predict that in the next century, sea-level rise could reach more than eight feet which would put parts of Manhattan completely underwater.

Coral Reefs

If warming is not kept under 1.5℃ anywhere between seventy to ninety percent of coral reeves around the world could die. Warming sea temperatures have already killed more than half of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef -- the world's largest reef -- since 1995. Around the world, 1.2 billion people derive their livelihoods from reef ecosystems or depend on them for sustenance. With the majority of dying at alarming rates, huge populations could face extreme poverty and starvation.