(Maine News Service) A study co-authored by a University of New England researcher finds the majority of the world's glaciers could disappear by the end of the century, leading to increased storm surges like the one that hit the Maine coast before Christmas last month.
Researchers say models show climate change and the continued use of fossil fuels could cause more than 80 percent of the world's glaciers to melt, which would also lead to significant sea-level rise.
Study co-author Will Kochtitzky - a visiting assistant teaching professor at the School of Marine and Environmental Programs at the University of New England - said Maine has already seen 6 to 8 inches of sea-level rise in the past 100 years.
"This is going to add a few more inches on top of that," said Kochtitzky, "and every inch really matters in some of these places."
Kochtitzky said communities need to plan now for what's to come.
The study predicts even under the most ambitious targets set forth in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, the world will still lose more than a quarter of its current glacier mass.
This research focused on 215,000 glaciers across the planet, excluding the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
Most of them are smaller in scale - but the study says their melting could dramatically impact local water resources, infrastructure and even tourism in America's national parks.
Kochtitzky said the data show that reducing carbon emissions can still slow or reduce glacier loss, to give countries and communities more time to prepare.
"There's not much we can do to stop sea-level rise in the coming decades," said Kochtitzky, "we more need to plan for how we're going to manage that, and build infrastructure that can be resilient to changing sea levels."
Maine's Office of Policy Innovation and the Future notes any modest cost savings in infrastructure today will come at the expense of much higher repair and replacement costs in the future, as seas continue to rise.
Despite the bleak findings, Kochtitzky called the study a "huge advance" in data processing to create the projected glacier models.