A new study from Climate Central, a nonprofit research group, shows that roughly 50 major coastal cities will need to implement "unprecedented" adaptation measures to prevent rising seas from swallowing their most populated areas.
The analysis, in collaboration with researchers at Princeton University and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, resulted in striking visual contrasts between the world as we know it today and our underwater future, if the planet warms to 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Climate scientists reported in August
the world is already around 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels. Temperatures should stay below 1.5 degrees, they say — a critical threshold to avoid the most severe impacts of the climate crisis.
But even in the most optimistic scenario, where global greenhouse gas emissions begin to decline today and are slashed to net zero by 2050, global temperature will still peak above the 1.5-degree threshold before falling.
In less-optimistic scenarios, where emissions continue to climb beyond 2050, the planet could reach 3 degrees as early as the 2060s or 2070s, and the oceans will continue to rise for decades beyond that before they reach peak levels.
"Today's choices will set our path," said Benjamin Strauss, the chief scientist at Climate Central and lead author on the report.