The British coastline could be devastated by sea levels rising more than 5ft this century, according to research.
The rise could be 64in – twice as much as previously thought – say scientists.
The shock findings, published yesterday in the prestigious journal Nature Geoscience, come just a day after more than 180 countries meeting in Bali set a much-criticised agenda for a global emissions cuts agreement to tackle climate change.
The British coastline could be devastated as sea levels rise
According to the study by a team headed by Eelco Rohling of Britain’s National Oceonography Centre, the sea level will rise this century at about the same rate it did 124,000 years ago when Earth’s climate warmed as the planet’s orbit around the Sun changed – that is, by 64in.
An increase of that magnitude would flood London and low-lying land such as the Fens and the marshes of Essex and North Kent.
Almost every beach in Britain would go and millions of people would lose their homes and jobs as the sea claimed massive coastal areas that are now centres of tourism, industry and farming.
Scientists agreed yesterday that such a rise, fuelled by the meltiing of the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets, would have a catastrophic impact.
“Until now, there have been no data that sufficiently constrain the full rate of past sea level rises above the present level,” said Dr Rohling.
He added that in the interglacial period, 124,000 to 119,000 years ago, Greenland was 5.4 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit (3 to 5 degrees Centigrade) warmer than now – which is similar to the warming period expected in the next 50 to 100 years unless drastic measures are taken to control pollution.
Environmental campaigners are furious at the U.S. for stripping the Bali agreement of all of its vital targets.
“The stalling tactics of the Bush administration snatched mediocrity from the jaws of resounding success,” said Andy Atkins, advocacy director of the environmental group Tearfund.