2 degrees, 40 feet: Scientists who study Earth’s ice say we could be committed to disastrous sea level rise

A new report details that ice sheets are melting quicker than expected and that the world will need to ramp up its climate efforts to avert disastrous sea level rise.

The Antarctic Peninsula from the air: although the mountains are plastered in snow and ice, measurements tell us that this region is losing ice at an increasing rate. (Photo: Pippa Whitehouse, University of Durham)

Top scientists say the world’s ice sheets are melting more rapidly than expected and that world leaders must ramp up their climate ambitions to avoid a catastrophic rise in sea levels.

A report released Thursday from the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, a network of policy experts and researchers, pleads with world leaders to heed their warnings as they gather for the United Nations’ COP28 climate conference later this month. The report says if global average temperatures settle at 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial baseline, the planet could be committed to more than 40 feet of sea-level rise — a melt that would take centuries and reshape societies across the globe.

The collapse of ice sheets and ice shelves has been a major point of uncertainty within the climate science community. But a flurry of new research suggests that dangerous tipping points are nearer than once thought and that there is likely less room in Earth’s carbon budget than expected.

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