Long-term sea-level rise implied by 1.5oC and 2oC warming levels

M. Schaeffer, W. Hare, S. Rahmstorf, A. Vermeer

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141 Citations (Scopus)


Sea-level rise (SLR) is a critical and uncertain climate change risk, involving timescales of centuries(1). Here we use a semi-empirical model, calibrated with sea-level data of the past millennium(2), to estimate the SLR implications of holding warming below 2 degrees C or 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial temperature, as mentioned in the Cancun Agreements(3). Limiting warming to these levels with a probability larger than 50% produces 75-80 cm SLR above the year 2000 by 2100. This is 25 cm below a scenario with unmitigated emissions, but 15 cm above a hypothetical scenario reducing global emissions to zero by 2016. The long-term SLR implications of the two warming goals diverge substantially on a multi-century timescale owing to inertia in the climate system and the differences in rates of SLR by 2100 between the scenarios. By 2300 a 1.5 degrees C scenario could peak sea level at a median estimate of 1.5 m above 2000. The 50% probability scenario for 2 degrees C warming would see sea level reaching 2.7 m above 2000 and still rising at about double the present-day rate. Halting SLR within a few centuries is likely to be achieved only with the large-scale deployment of CO2 removal efforts, for example, combining large-scale bioenergy systems with carbon capture and storage(4).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)867-870
JournalNature Climate Change
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • greenhouse-gas concentrations
  • concentration targets
  • stabilization
  • temperature
  • emissions
  • millennia
  • pathways
  • model

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