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A set of images from Climate Central shows how iconic locations — in London, Shanghai, Mumbai, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Durban and New York — could fare under scenarios of business as usual versus a sharp transition to clean energy.
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Two possible futures
The first image for each pair – which roughly corresponds to ‘business as usual’ – shows projections of the post-2100 sea level rise that could be locked in following 4°C (7.2°F) of warming.
The second image shows projections based on 2°C (3.6°F) of warming from carbon pollution. This degree of warming corresponds to the target limit widely discussed today as the threshold to avoid catastrophic climate change — and officially designated as part of the Cancun Agreement, signed in 2010 by international delegates gathered under the umbrella of the United Nations.
In December, a major new round of global climate talks is being held in Paris. The decisions reached there may have a strong bearing on which of these two scenarios the future looks like most.
Check your postcode
Projections of locked-in sea level come from Climate Central’s peer-reviewed research, published in October in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A special Climate Central-led report, published today (09 November), describes the application of those projections to global elevation data for making the maps upon which these images are based.
The same maps are displayed at Mapping Choices, an interactive tool that allows users to explore the possible consequences of 4°C warming, 2°C warming or other temperature or carbon emission scenarios, for any coastal city or postal code around the world.
The images were created by visual artist Nickolay Lamm based on Climate Central’s sea level map data.
Click here to find out more about Climate Central and its work on the science and impacts of climate change.