New Study: Visible Sea Level Rise Due To Human Activity

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Researchers eliminate natural rise and fall over time as cause

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, July 23, 2014) – New research confirms that human activity is causing sea levels to rise beyond natural fluctuation.

A Colorado University study is the first to take Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), the natural rise and fall in sea levels over time, into consideration and study has found Pacific sea levels are rising consistently beyond this naturally occurring phenomenon.

"Our new study shows that once you estimate [PDO] and remove it, you're still left with sea level rise in that region that is not a result of this natural variability and we have attributed that to anthropogenic or man-made causes," the study's lead author Ben Hamlington told Pacific Beat.

The research team performed sea level reconstructions going back to 1950, by matching patterns of satellite and tide gauge data, then stripped away the effects of the PDO to see its influence on current sea level increases in the Pacific.

Dr Hamlington says he found strong evidence that humans are contributing to rising sea levels in the Pacific.

"Conventional wisdom was when the PDO switched phases around the Eastern Pacific around the coast of California, sea level would go up and around the Western tropical Pacific sea level would start decreasing or go down but once we remove this, we see that you still have hot-spots of sea level rise in the Western tropical Pacific which suggests that this trend pattern we've seen from the last 20 years from satellites is going to continue to persist," he said.

Sea levels near Indonesia, the Philippines and northeast Australia are estimated to have risen by about 1 cm per year over the past 20 years due to anthropogenic warming.

Dr Hamlington says this trend is very likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Australia and Pacific most at risk

Dr Hamlington says the western Pacific is experiencing more intense sea level increases than the rest of the world.

"Around Indonesia, Philippines, areas like that, you're experiencing this hotspot of sea-level rise, I mean very high levels, four times the global mean," he said.

"So you would think the priority would be to do something there in particular."

Dr Hamlington says Australia and the Pacific region are most at risk and should be committing to climate action now more than ever.

"I think the view should be to start taking on some policies that curb some of these greenhouse gas emissions and that would have a positive effect on what we've seen as a result of our study," he said.

Last week, Australia's senate repealed the country's carbon tax, after two prior attempts. The government hopes to replace the legislation with its Direct Action policy which favours cash incentives over a pricing scheme.

"I'm more surprised there's a debate in Australia and the surrounding areas than there would be [in the US] just based on what you're experiencing in terms of climate change and sea level rise just in the last 20 years," Dr Hamlington said.

"We should be doing more, not less."

Pacific leaders have called on the global community to commit to greater action on climate change.

Fiji's interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama has singled out Australia for failing to adequately address climate change.

"The rising sea levels caused by global warming threaten the very existence of some of our neighbours - Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands," he told the Pacific Islands Development Forum in June.

Kiribati's President Anote Tong and Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak have also urged the global community to act before it is too late.

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