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NORWICH, UK: Robert Nicholls, professor of Climate Adaptation at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and director of the UK Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, says decision-makers and coastal communities must start preparing for multi-metre sea level rises.

In a report published in Environmental Research Letters, Nichols and his co-authors set out three recommendations on how to avoid the worst impacts:

First, net zero greenhouse gases need to be reinforced and sustained to help postpone [at least] two metres of sea-level rise in the future, giving more time for coastal communities to plan adaptation.

Second, monitoring for early warning signs on the collapse of ice-sheets must be strengthened and sustained.

Third, coastal zone decision-makers and communities must commit to adaptation planning in their decisions, considering all options, including relocation where risk and hazard is too high.

“The IPCC AR6 makes clear that two metres of sea-level rise will be exceeded sooner or later and this must be considered in all future coastal development,” he commented.

Unlike other climate change impacts, even if average global warming is kept at or below 1.5˚C, sea levels are expected to rise and continue to rise for hundreds to thousands of years, he observed.

“It may seem distant in the future, but much of the infrastructure we have today and many that are planned are already in low-lying coastal areas. Sea-level rise is accelerating and adaptation will take time. We need to envision a future for coastal and estuarine areas for the next centuries,” Nicholls added.

Noting global action remains incremental in scale, he said policies and projects are usually short sighted and single hazard-focused; they overlook the root causes of exposure and vulnerability, are poorly monitored and show little evidence of effective risk reduction.
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