Researchers call for immediate emissions reduction to limit sea level rise

Scientists from Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s Te Puna Pātiotio—Antarctic Research Centre (ARC) have contributed to a major international study that has found sea level rise from melting glaciers and ice sheets could be halved this century if the Paris Agreement target of limiting warming to 1.5°C is met.

But meeting this target, the authors warn, will require deep and immediate emissions cuts.

The studyled by Dr Tamsin Edwards of King’s College London, was published today in the science journal Nature. It involved 80 scientists from around the world, including Professor Nicholas Golledge and Associate Professor Brian Anderson, both from the ARC, and Dr Dan Lowry, ARC adjunct research fellow.

The study uses computer models and statistical techniques to make predictions based on a range of socio-economic scenarios. The results will inform the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report, which will be published later this year.

The research predicts that if global warming is limited to 1.5°C, rather than the 3°C that global governmental emissions pledges currently commit us to, the contribution to sea level rise from melting ice could be cut from around 25cm to 13cm by 2100. This would greatly reduce the costs and impacts of coastal flooding around the world, including in New Zealand.

The study underlines the importance of making swift and decisive climate action at all scales, says Professor Golledge.

“The study shows we still have a chance to limit the future melting of the world’s glaciers and ice sheets, but we have to act now. The window of opportunity for staying in reach of 1.5ºC is closing fast—we have to get our emissions under control in the next few years or face far greater social and economic disruption in the future.”

The Antarctic Research Centre is a founding member of the 50×30 coalition, which aims to press governments around the world to take more decisive action on climate change. The coalition is part of a global initiative to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent by 2030 to ensure that net carbon neutrality is achieved by 2050.