Study Predicts 200 Feet Of Sea Level Rise If All Fossil Fuels Are Burned

“To be blunt: If we burn it all, we melt it all.”

So says Ricarda Winkelmann, the lead author of a new paper that paints a dire picture of our planet should we continue to extract and burn the world’s coal, oil and natural gas reserves.

Published Friday in the journal Science Advances, the study forecasts sea levels rising more than 200 feet should all fossil fuels be used by humanity. In such a scenario, the entire ice sheet covering Antarctica, as well as every bit of land ice on Earth, would melt.

Winkelmann spoke to The New York Times on Friday about her team’s research, which found the rate of melting could occur far more quickly than scientists had expected. Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science and co-author of the paper, told NPR the planet could see 2 or 3 feet of sea level rise this century if current trends continue.

But then the rates will start to increase exponentially, and within 1,000 years, “we’ll have something like 100 feet of sea level rise … which means basically abandoning most of the major cities of the world.”

The researchers found that as the rest of the world’s ice continued to melt, sea levels would be pushed upwards nearly 200 feet in total.

The Times noted many of the world’s metropolises would lie underwater should this degree of sea level rise occur. Sydney, Rome, Tokyo, New York, Amsterdam, Beijing, Berlin and Paris would all be at risk, as well as wide swaths of Europe, Asia and the East Coast of the United States.

“This is humanity as a geologic force,” Caldeira told the Times. “We’re not a subtle influence on the climate system — we are really hitting it with a hammer.”

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