BBC: Americas on alert for sea level rise

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By James Painter
BBC Latin America analyst

Climate change experts in North and South America are increasingly worried by the potentially devastating implications of higher estimates for possible sea level rises.

The Americas have until now been seen as less vulnerable than other parts of the world like low-lying Pacific islands, Vietnam or Bangladesh.

But the increase in the ranges for anticipated sea level rises presented at a meeting of scientists in Copenhagen in March has alarmed observers in the region.

Parts of the Caribbean, Mexico and Ecuador are seen as most at risk. New York City and southern parts of Florida are also thought to be particularly vulnerable.....

A November 2008 study by UN-Habitat on the world's cities pointed out that in most Caribbean island states, 50% of the population lives within 2km (1.2 miles) of the coast. They would be directly affected by sea level rise and other climate impacts.

The Bahamas, the Guyanas, Belize and Jamaica have been pin-pointed by the World Bank as being particularly at risk from a one-metre rise.

The coastal plains around the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador, the country's main economic hub, are also known to be vulnerable to a combination of sea level rises, storms and sea surges.

New York would see an additional rise of about 20cm (7.8in) above the global mean due to Amoc by the turn of the century, according to Dr Yin's research published this year in the journal, Nature Geoscience. Florida would experience less than 10cm (3.9in).

"A one-metre rise could be a disaster for parts of Florida, particularly in the southern part of the state," Dr Yin told the BBC.

"Sea level rise superimposed on hurricane vulnerability makes for a very worrying situation."

Many scientists stress that it is not too late to mitigate the possible effects.

"We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce coastal developments," Dr Yin says.

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