The rate of sea level rise increased 50% in the last two decades, new study finds


venice italy sinking sea level rise

AP Photo/Luigi Costantini, File

Venice, Italy, will be particularly hard-hit by sea-level rise. In this Dec. 1, 2008 file photo, chairs and tables belonging to a cafe are submerged by high water in Venice's St. Mark's Square.

A new study published in Nature found that sea level rise shot up between 1993 and 2014 because of climate change.


The authors of the study calculated that in those two decades, there was a 50% in the rate at which seas are rising - from about 2.2 millimeters per year in 1993 to about 3.3 millimeters per year in 2014.

The biggest increase in contributions to that sea-level rise came from the melting of Greenland's ice sheet. In 1993, the ice melt was responsible for only 5% of the rate of sea level rise, but by 2014 that number had risen to 25%.

The authors also suggested that another source of sea-level rise was "terrestrial water storage" associated with human activities. When we extract water from the ground for use in homes, industry, or irrigation, scientists estimate that about 80% of that extracted ground water later makes its way to the ocean. Deforestation and drainage of wetlands also contribute to this cause of sea-level rise.

According to the report's authors, this new data "highlights the importance and urgency of mitigating climate change and formulating coastal adaption plans to mitigate the impacts of ongoing sea-level rise." In other words, the acceleration of sea-level rise can be seen as an important reason to work towards limiting climate change and making coastlines more resilient to flooding and other consequences of sea-level rise.


However, President Trump's decisions to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement and initiate a review of Barack Obama's sweeping Clean Power Plan have made clear that climate change mitigation is not a priority for the administration. The new report, in fact, was published during the same week that Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt announced plans to roll back the Obama-era Clean Water Rule and defended a proposed 31% funding cut to the EPA's budget on Capitol Hill.

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