The British Antarctic Survey found that during past periods of high carbon dioxide, temperatures in Antarctica were up to 6C above current levels. This could cause a sea level rise of up six metres, threatening coastal cities like London, New York and San Francisco.
It is the latest research to warn of the consequences of increased greenhouse gases on the Earth's climate. Yesterday a study warned that carbon dioxide produced by man is now rising at record rates putting the world on a pathway for a 6C rise in temperature.
All the recent studies are adding pressure on world leader to agree in international deal on climate change at a UN summit in Copenhagen this December.
Louise Sime, lead of the British Antarctic Survey study, looked at ice cores to see how temperatures changed during periods of high carbon dioxide
She found that during the last period of high CO2, 125,000 years ago, temperatures were up to 6C higher than present day levels.
Such a hike in temperature could lead to a rise in sea levels of between 4 to 6 metres over hundreds of years as the ice sheets melt.
"We didn't expect to see such warm temperatures, and we don't yet know in detail what caused them. But they indicate that Antarctica's climate may have undergone rapid shifts during past periods of high CO2."
Dr Sime said the study suggests that current high levels of CO2 could also cause a rise in temperature. She said further research could predict the affect on sea level rise.
"If we can pin down how much warmer temperatures were in Antarctica and Greenland at this time, then we can test predictions of how melting of the large ice sheets may contribute to sea level rise."
A study out yesterday found that carbon dioxide levels rose by almost a third in the last seven years. The research in Nature Geoscience warned that if the world continues to pump out pollution at such a rate it will cause temperatures to rise by 6C, causing massive droughts, extinction of species and sea level rise.
Today another study added to the urgency by claiming that the oceans are losing their ability to absorb CO2. Samar Khatiwala of Columbia University, found that the proportion of fossil fuel emissions absorbed by the oceans since 200 may have decline by as much as 10 per cent.
"What our ocean study and other recent land studies suggest is that we cannot count on these sinks operating in the future as they have in the past, and keep on subsidising our ever-growing appetite for fossil fuels," he said.
But Dr Wolfgang Knorr, of Bristol University, who has been studying the same subject said there is not yet enough evidence to prove that the Earth is losing its ability to absorb CO2.