An Australian-led team has discovered Antarctic ice sheets are melting quicker than initially thought, revealing that coal usage must go by 2050 to prevent the sea from rising over a meter by the end of the century.
Lead author of the report from Melbourne University’s Australian-German Climate & Energy College, Alexander Nauels, told the Sydney Morning Herald that a full report will be released in 2021. “There are really high risks attached to these new findings from more Antarctic contributions,” he warned.
The growing disintegration of ice sheets could result in a maximum 2-metre sea-level rise if something is not changed. This could increase to a rise as great as 10-15 metres by 2500. “These are very, very scary numbers,” Mr Nauels says.
Limiting the use of coal for energy production will help prevent the rise. “Coal as we know it today [without carbon capture and storage] will have to be gone pretty much [by 2050],” Mr Nauels said. “There is no future for fossil fuels, and coal in particular.”
Nauels explains that carbon emissions need to be limited to 850 gigatonnes to make any real difference. One method of reducing coal usage could potentially include putting a price on carbon emissions. “If we have a carbon price of $US100 [per tonne of CO₂-equivalent at 2005 terms] in 2050, according to the SSP scenarios, we could limit sea-level rise to around 65cm by 2100,” Carl Friedrich Schleussner of Climate Analytics says.
Schleussner adds that “This is the first time that a study has combined latest sea-level rise modelling with the new scenarios and we can see clear linkages between specific mitigation efforts and sea-level rise impacts.”