A new study indicates that for every degree Celsius that the globe rises in temperature over a sustained period of time, the Earth's sea levels would rise approximately seven meters.
"We're trying to pin down the 'sea-level commitment' of global warming on a multi-millenial time scale," said Oregon State University paleoclimatologist Peter Clark, the author of the study. "In other words, how much would sea levels rise over long periods of time for each degree the planet warms and holds that warmth?"
The study was funded primarily by the National Science Foundation and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Clark indicated that his simulations were "fairly consistent with evidence of sea-level rise from the past." As an example, Clark said, "Some 120,000 years ago, it was 1-2 degrees warmer than it is now and sea levels were about five to nine meters higher. This is consistent with what our models say may happen in the future.”
David Vaughan, head of the Ice2Sea project, told Reuters that the biggest impact rising seas will have is that storms will become much more destructive.
"It's not about chasing people up the beach or the changing shape of coastlines," said Vaughan. "The big issue is how the storms will damage our coasts and how often they occur. That'll increase even with small levels of sea rise in coming decades."