Researchers say, low-lying island nations that are threatened by the rising sea levels this century could see the disastrous consequences of climate change far sooner than expected.
According to the Guardian, in the wake of last month's discovery that the extent of Arctic sea ice coverage hit a record low this year, one of the world's leading climate scientist Michael Mann said that "Island nations that have considered the possibility of evacuation at some point, like Tuvalu, may have to be contending those sort of decisions within the matter of a decade or so."
Mann, who is the director of Pennsylvania State University's Earth System Science Center, said that current melting trends show sea ice is "declining faster than the models predict."
"The models have typically predicted that will not happen for decades but the measurements that are coming in tell us it is already happening so once again we are decades ahead of schedule," the Huffington Post quoted him as saying.
According to Climate Central, this year's record melting, which occurred under more "normal" conditions than the previous record set in 2007, left Arctic sea ice at a minimum "nearly 50 percent lower than the average ... for the years 1979-2000."
Rapidly decreasing sea ice suggests that the melting of polar ice sheets may occur more rapidly than previously predicted.
Mann said that "we will really start to see sea level rises accelerate," as the Greenland and the west Antarctic ice sheets disappear.
Unlike with the melting of sea ice, these ice sheets would introduce vast quantities of water into the world's oceans, making them "critical from the standpoint of sea level rise," Mann said.
The ongoing rise in average global temperatures, which has accelerated Arctic ice melt, has been largely attributed to the burning of fossil fuels and the resultant increase in greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.
For the most vulnerable island nations, like the Maldives, Kiribati, the Torres Strait Islands and many others, rising seas will bring significant coastal erosion and saltwater contamination of limited freshwater supplies.