UNE Professor Writes Global Report on Sea Level Change

Published 13 October 2013

Sea-Level_Projections_from_SPM_(P_Nunn)Sea levels are rising and will accelerate throughout the remainder of the 21st century and beyond according to UNE Professor Patrick Nunn, a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th assessment report.

Professor Nunn is Head of UNE’s School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences and for the past four years has been working on the report, released last week in Stockholm.  The 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC represents the most comprehensive assessment of the world’s climate to date and the way it is likely to develop in the foreseeable future.

Among the report’s major conclusions is that the warming of the climate system is ‘unequivocal’, each of the last three decades having been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface. The report also concludes that it is ‘extremely likely’ (95% certain) that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the middle of the 20th century.

Together with 13 other authors from across the world, Professor Nunn wrote the chapter addressing Sea Level Change of the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report.

The 121-page chapter concludes that global sea level will continue rising throughout this century and beyond, and that the rate of sea-level rise observed between 1971-2010 will accelerate.

“Because temperature change is closely linked to sea-level change, rising temperatures generally equate to rising sea levels,” Professor Nunn said. “While there are some uncertainties not adequately captured by models, it is likely that sea level in 2100 will be more than 50 cm higher than it is today, perhaps close to 1 m higher.

“This will have serious consequences for people living in low-lying areas along the entire world’s coastline.”

With over 25 years of experience in sea-level research, Professor Nunn is well qualified to contribute to this IPCC report, the third in which he has been involved.  He notes that authors of IPCC reports are not paid for their contributions and that the reports do not involve original research, only the informed assessment of peer-reviewed research publications.

“The scientific rigour of the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report is almost unmatched in my view,” Professor Nunn said. “I recall spending hours in teleconferences discussing the wording of individual paragraphs and the formats of particular diagrams.”

More details of the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report, including the accessible Summary for Policymakers, are available at www.climatechange2013.org