Researchers from the UK-based Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory have predicted rises far higher than those quoted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last year.

The estimates include water from melting glaciers and ice sheets, which were not included by the IPCC because of uncertainties over the process.

The rises could have dire consequences for people living in low-lying countries around the world.

The research, which looked at sea levels over the past 2,000 years as well as predicting future levels, was presented to reporters at the European Geosciences Union conference in Vienna last week.

Speaking on her return to the UK, Dr Svetlana Jevrejeva from the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory told edie: “Looking back 2,000 years, we found that the changes up to 1700 were very small – the sea level was very stable and changes were just 20cm.

“We showed that in the eighteenth century, sea level rise was about 2cm, it was 6cm in the nineteenth century, and 19cm in the twentieth century.

“But we also estimated future changes.”

The scientists predicted that by the turn of the next century, sea levels could be 0.8-1.5 metres high.

The IPCC forecasts rises of between 18cm and 59cm, based on several different scenarios.

The World Bank has previously estimated that a one-metre rise in sea levels could turn at least 56m people in the developing world into refugees.

A study published year predicted that approximately 0.3%, or 194,000 square kilometres, in 84 developing countries would be impacted.

A one-metre sea level rise could displace an estimated 10.8% of the population in Vietnam, particularly along the Mekong and Red River deltas, the World Bank said.

Kate Martin

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