Findings of a new research offer insights on the severity of the devastation caused by the changing climate on the planet.
The new study, "Sea level and global ice volumes from the Last Glacial Maximum to the Holocene," published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Oct. 13, reveals that for thousands of years, sea levels have remained fairly steady until the start of the 20th century.
Kurt Lambeck, from the Research School of Earth Sciences at The Australian National University, and colleagues examined collections of ancient sediment samples as old as 35,000 years and discovered that for most of the past 6,000 years, the Earth's sea level was relatively stable in that it did not fluctuate by over 25 centimeters on timescales of a hundred years or longer.
Significant changes, however, started to emerge about 150 years ago, the time marked by the advent of massive industrialization when humans started to pump more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are known to contribute to global warming and are often released through the burning of fossil fuels.
The past century saw a 20 centimeter rise in global sea level, which is tenfold of the average over the past 6,000 years and experts said that climate change has something to do with this.
"What we see in the tide gauges we don't see in the past record, so there's something going on today that wasn't going on before," Lambeck said. "I think that is clearly the impact of rising temperatures."
The researchers said that the rising temperature causes the melting of the polar ice and the thermal expansion of the sea. The temperature of the seas rises with the warming of the planet and the greenhouse gases that trap heat on Earth causes glaciers and ice sheets to melt, a phenomenon that has serious implications.
Lambeck said that the sea level will go up in some parts of the world and will go down in the other parts when the ice sheets melt.
"When an ice sheet builds up, it pulls the water towards it so that within a certain distance of the ice sheet, sea levels actually go up, whereas much further away they have to go down," Lambeck said.
Other studies also attribute global warming to the impending loss of wildlife and their habitat. The Pentagon said earlier this week that the warming climate also poses threats to international peace and stability.