‘How high above sea level am I?’ If you’ve googled this, you’re likely asking the wrong question — an expert explains

Publication date
Thursday, 12 Aug 2021

The latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is confronting. It finds global mean sea levels rose by about 20 centimetres between 1901 and 2018. In fact, sea levels have risen faster over the last hundred years than any time in the last 3,000 years.

This acceleration is expected to continue. A further 15-25cm of sea level rise is expected by 2050, with little sensitivity to greenhouse gas emissions between now and then. Beyond 2050, however, the amount of sea level rise will largely depend on our future emissions.

In a low-emissions scenario, we can expect sea levels to rise to about 38cm above the 1995–2014 average by the year 2100. In a high-emissions scenario this is expected to more than double to 77cm.

In either case, who will feel the effects of sea level rise? And how much does your location’s height above sea level really matter? It’s a question a lot of you have been googling since the report’s release. But the answer isn’t straightforward.