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Global and Planetary Change
Sea-level rise is among the most important changes expected as a consequence of anthropogenic global warming. Climate model-based projections made until the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) yield a 21st century rise spanning nearly 20–60 cm. However, it is known that current climate models are likely to underestimate sea-level change in response to rapid climatic variations. Recent alternative semi-empirical approaches predict a much higher sea-level rise than the IPCC AR4 projections. Nevertheless, the underway depletion of conventional fossil fuels might, at least in principle, constrain future fossil CO2 emissions and, in turn, affect also the extent of sea-level rise. Here we project 2000–2200 sea-level rise with a semi-empirical method coupled to a simple climate model that is run under a range of fossil-fuel exhaustion scenarios. We find that, in spite of fossil-fuel depletion, sea level is predicted to rise by at least ~ 80 cm at the end of this century and is expected to continue rising for at least the next two hundred years. The present results support the need for prompt and substantial emission cuts in order to slow down future sea-level rise and implement adaptation measures.