Sea level is already guaranteed to rise by 5 feet, climate scientist says

Based on the amount of greenhouse gases humans have already added to the Earth’s atmosphere, the world is guaranteed to experience approximately 5 feet of sea level rise in the coming decades, climate scientist Benjamin Strauss told “The Climate Crisis Podcast.”

“It’s in that range, you know, 5 feet plus or minus. And that’s because we’ve already warmed the planet by around 2 degrees Fahrenheit, 1.1 Celsius,” Strauss, the president and CEO of Climate Central, a nonprofit that tries to educate policymakers and the public about the threats posed by climate change, told Yahoo News. “Think of it this way: If I dumped a truckload of ice in the middle of Phoenix, we’d all know it’s going to melt. But it takes time to melt. And the same thing is true for the big ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica and glaciers around the world. We turned up the thermostat. We’ve already heated the planet by a couple degrees, but they’ve only begun to respond by melting. And that’s why we have all this extra sea level in the pipeline and it’s, it’s enough, I’m afraid to say, it’s hard to imagine the long-term future of South Florida, let’s say, right, with the sea level that’s already in the pipeline.”

A woman stands on top of a rock holding a fish her husband just caught off Bikeman islet, located off South Tarawa in the central Pacific island nation of Kiribati.
A woman stands off Bikeman islet in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati in 2013. (David Gray/Reuters)

Strauss, who has testified before Congress on the number of American houses that will be threatened due to sea level rise caused by climate change, noted that current estimates are that seas will rise by 2 to 3 feet by the end of the century and will continue rising in the decades that follow. Yet the fact that roughly 5 feet of sea level rise has already been baked in to the planet’s future is, for Strauss, even more incentive for the world to come together to prevent that figure from creeping even higher.

“I think we can help ourselves a lot by slowing down these changes,” he said.

Global temperatures are on the rise and have been for decades, step inside the data and see the magnitude of climate change.

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