Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sea level rise from the current rate of ice sheet melt in Antarctica and Greenland present "worst-case climate change scenario," researchers say. (Photo: Jadeo/Pixabay)

'Worst-Case Scenario' of Melting Ice and Sea Level Rise Coming to Pass, Warn Researchers

At its current rate, the sea level rise will be "enough to double the frequency of storm-surge flooding in many of the world's largest coastal cities" by the end of the century. 

Julia Conley

The lives and homes of sixteen million people living in coastal areas around the world could be threatened by the current rate of ice-melt in Antarctica and Greenland, which tracks with the "worst-case scenario" put forward by global scientists.

Researchers at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and the Danish Meteorological Institute released a study this week showing that the scenario the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned about is coming true as the melting of ice has accelerated in recent years, with sea levels rising 1.8 centimeters or 0.7 inches since the 1990s.

"The rate at which they are melting has accelerated faster than we could have imagined."
—Dr. Tom Slater, University of Leeds

Over the last five years, the study shows, melting ice has overtaken thermal expansion—in which the volume of sea water grows as it gets warmer—as the primary driver of sea level rise. 

The alarming findings of the study, published Monday in Nature Climate Change, follows research published by Ohio State University last month, which showed that Greenland's ice melt has passed the "point of no return," and even redoubled efforts to stop the warming of the globe by ending fossil fuel extraction will not be enough to stem looming catastrophe.

If Greenland's ice sheet were to disintegrate entirely, the study published this week said, sea levels would rise more than 22 feet. 

The loss of Antarctica would cause sea levels to rise 190 feet. 

The complete loss of the two ice masses is not currently anticipated by scientists, but the current melting rate could add 17 centimeters, or more than six inches, to sea levels by the end of the century.

"Although we anticipated the ice sheets would lose increasing amounts of ice in response to the warming of the oceans and atmosphere, the rate at which they are melting has accelerated faster than we could have imagined," said Dr. Tom Slater, lead author of the study.

The expected sea level rise has significant implications for coastal cities and towns around the world, the authors said, and humanity is currently "in danger of being unprepared" for the impacts.

The effects of the current rate of ice-melt could be "calamitous" even in the next two decades, tweeted climate campaigner Ben See in response to the study. 

The expected change in sea levels by the end of the century would be "enough to double the frequency of storm-surge flooding in many of the world's largest coastal cities," said Dr. Anna Hogg, co-author of the study. 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

NDP Expected to Wield Power in Canadian Parliament as Trudeau Maintains Minority Govt

"We are going to continue fighting for you, just the same way we fought for you in the pandemic, you can count on us to continue those fights," said NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

Julia Conley ·


Critics Say Big Oil Would Benefit From Bipartisan Bill's Taxpayer-Funded Cleanup

Rather than helping fossil fuel giants externalize the costs of plugging abandoned oil and gas wells, progressives argue, lawmakers should force polluters to pay for the damages they have caused.

Kenny Stancil ·


#UprootTheSystem: Climate Movement Readies Another Global Strike

Youth activists are demanding not only climate action but also equitable Covid-19 vaccine distribution.

Andrea Germanos ·


Big Pharma Greed 'Literally Killing Americans,' Sanders Says Outside Drug Lobby HQ

"How many people need to die, how many people need to get unnecessarily sicker, before Congress is prepared to take on the greed of the prescription drug industry?" asked Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Jake Johnson ·


Vaccine Equity Coalition Warns 'Pathetic Trickles of Charity' Won't End Pandemic

"Rich countries are selfishly looking out for themselves but short-changing all of us. We need bold solutions now, not more empty gestures."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo