Rising seas from global warming could submerge swathes of New York and Shanghai, and drive millions of people into poverty worldwide, researchers warned Monday as climate-altering carbon levels broke new records.
The slew of fresh planetary warnings came as ministers met in Paris searching common ground of a crunch climate summit.
If the planet warms by four degrees Celsius—double the targeted UN ceiling—oceans will swallow land inhabited by more than 600 million people, said a survey by Climate Central, a US-based research group.
At the same time, the World Meteorological Organization said concentrations of climate-altering greenhouse gases in the atmosphere broke new records last year.
“Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are now reaching levels not seen on Earth for more than 800,000, maybe even one million years,” WMO chief Michel Jarraud told reporters.
“This means we are now really in uncharted territory for the human race,” he warned.
The new warnings came as environment and energy ministers met in Paris seeking convergence on issues still dividing nations negotiating for a climate rescue pact to be inked at a November 30-December 11 UN summit in the French capital.
Climate Central said that even if the agreement succeeds in limiting average global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, areas today home to 280 million people would slip under the waves.
A separate World Bank study said there could be “more than 100 million additional people in poverty by 2030” unless action is taken to stem climate change. “The poor are more vulnerable to climate-related shocks than wealthier people,” said the report, urging “strong action” from the Paris summit.
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, hosting ministers and climate envoys from 70 countries in Paris to prepare for the summit over which he will preside, issued his own dire warning.
“It is life on our planet itself which is at stake,” he said at the start of talks on Sunday.
“There is absolute urgency” to achieve the 2 C goal, said Fabius. Anything higher would have “catastrophic consequences” - including wars over dwindling water and other resources.