Methane and soot identified as sea level rise drivers

The much-derided Climate and Clean Air Coalition could play a vital role in slowing sea level rise, research from the US-based National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) suggests.

Created in 2012, the Coalition targets short-lived pollutants such as methane, soot and hydrofluorocarbons.

NCAR scientists say sharp reductions in the emissions of these substances from 2015 could offset warming temperatures 50% by 2050, and reduce total sea level rise 22-42% by 2100.

“Without diminishing the importance of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the long term, this study shows that more immediate gains from shorter-lived pollutants are substantial,” said report co-author and climate scientist Claudia Tebaldi.

“Cutting emissions of those gases could give coastal communities more time to prepare for rising sea levels. As we have seen recently, storm surges in very highly populated regions of the East Coast show the importance of both making such preparations and cutting greenhouse gases.”

The Government of the Pacific island state of Kiribati is already preparing plans to evacuate citizens if sea levels continue to rise

Critics of the CCAC have questioned whether the US-led initiative can really contribute to progress on climate change, or if it is a facade for the country to avoid making wide-ranging commitments at the main UN climate talks.

A 2007 assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted sea levels could rise between 18-59 centimetres this century should temperatures continue to rise.

In the past two months researchers have reported significant glacier melt in the Andes, Greenland and Antarctica.

The combination of severe storms and rising sea levels could threaten coastal communities around the world.

New York, Miami Amsterdam, Dhaka and Tokyo are located in low-lying areas near the sea.

Superstorm Sandy, which hit the Caribbean and US East Coast is estimated to have cost the area approximately US$100 billion.

A statement from NCAR says scientists used the Community Climate System Model together with a secondary model simulating climate, carbon and geochemistry.

It says they also used estimates of future emissions of heat-trapping gases under ‘various social and economic scenarios’ and on computer models of melting ice and sea level rise.

“It must be remembered that carbon dioxide is still the most important factor in sea level rise over the long term,” said NCAR scientist and co-author Warren Washington. “But we can make a real difference in the next several decades by reducing other emissions.”

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