The words of Greta Thunberg were still echoing at the UN Climate Action Summit as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report, describing evidence of climate change from one pole to the other, in ocean depths and mountain peaks. If carbon emissions continue to increase, sea level rise is now expected to exceed previously projected figures, reaching 3.6 feet by 2100, owing to accelerated melting of glaciers, reports the Washington Post. The shrinking Antarctic ice sheet might even be past the point of saving, meaning "a chance of a multi-meter sea level rise within the next two to three centuries," a report author says, per CNN. Even without such a loss, many of the 680 million people living in low-lying coastal areas like New York, London, and Shanghai can expect to see 100-year flood events each year by 2050.
"The blue planet is in serious danger right now … and it's our fault," says coordinating lead author Dr. Jean-Pierre Gattuso, one of more than 100 scientists who worked on the report, per the BBC. Yet the worst impacts can be avoided with immediate cuts to carbon emissions. Warning of the increasing risks and costs of delayed action, authors say lowering emissions could reduce sea level rise from 15 millimeters per year by 2100 to 4 millimeters per year. All living things would feel the impact—regardless, the ocean will become more inhospitable and acidic—but this would lessen the effects on the most vulnerable. We just need a push, according to Gattuso. "After the demonstrations of young people last week, I think they are the best chance for us," he says, per the BBC. "They are dynamic, they are active … and they will make society change." (Read more climate change stories.)