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Scientists Say We Are Drowning Coastal Cities

(CN) - Climate change caused by humans in the 20th century led to the fastest rise in global sea levels - and the accompanying tidal flooding of coastal communities - in nearly 3,000 years, researchers said Monday.

The estimate of global sea-level change, believed by researchers involved to be the first of its kind, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Researchers said global sea levels started rising notably faster in the 19th century before hitting record pace in the last 100 years. Furthermore, the study found that if human-caused climate change did not exist, oceans would have risen by less than 51 percent of the levels achieved in the 20th century.

And scientists expect that flooding and other severe weather conditions will continue to worsen as fossil fuels and other harmful emissions continue to increase. Eventually, coastal cities - including many of the world's largest - will be uninhabitable.

"I think we need a new way to think about most coastal flooding," Dr. Benjamin H. Strauss, the primary author of one of two related studies told the New York Times. "It's not the tide. It's not the wind. It's us. That's true for most of the coastal floods we now experience."

This research presents one of the most thorough analyses of sea water levels, specifically in relation to human activity. The scientists constructed a statistical meta-analysis that included data for tides, sea levels and temperatures dating back roughly 3,000 years.

They found that global sea levels were steady between the A.D. 1000 and 1400, and temperatures lowered an estimated 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, the Industrial Revolution in the 19th and 20th centuries led to significant environmental reactions, including an approximate 8-inch rise in global sea levels, and a temperature increase of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

The scientists expect that further increases will occur over the next 200 years. They project sea levels will rise by three to four feet by the end of the 21st century.

And the changes will likely become more pronounced during the 22nd century, prompting humans to migrate away from coastal cities, according to researchers.

These findings come two months after world leaders met in Paris and agreed to stunt global temperature increases, foster programs and strategies for lower greenhouse gas emissions and establish additional techniques for climate resilience - without threatening food production.

Unfortunately for humankind, the Paris accords may be too little, too late.

"I think we can definitely be confident that sea-level rise is going to continue to accelerate if there's further warming, which inevitably there will be," Stefan Rahmstorf, a professor of ocean physics at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and co-author of one of the studies, told the New York Times.

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