How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

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Glaciers and Sea Levels
Braithwaite, R.J. and Raper, S.C.B.  2002.  Glaciers and their contribution to sea level change.  Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 27: 1445-1454.

In the words of the authors, "modern discussions of climate change always give prominence to possible rises in sea level as a major impact, and the spectre of those 'melting polar ice caps' is alive and well in the popular imagination."

What was done
To bring a bit of reality to the subject, Braithwaite and Raper review what is known -- and what is not known -- about the contribution to sea level rise from mountain glaciers and ice caps, excluding the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

What was learned
The authors begin their review of the subject by noting that "the temperature sensitivity of sea level rise depends upon the global distribution of glacier areas, the temperature sensitivity of glacier mass balance in each region, the expected change of climate in each region, and changes in glacier geometry resulting from climate change."  They end by reporting that "none of these are particularly well known at present," concluding that "glacier areas, altitudes, shape characteristics and mass balance sensitivity are still not known for many glacierized regions and ways must be found to fill gaps."  With respect to problems standing in the way of acquiring the needed knowledge, they estimate that satisfactory solutions "will probably take a decade of work by many different groups in a number of disciplines."

What it means
Reliable predictions of glacier behavior and sea level change over the next hundred years would appear to be beyond our grasp at present.  Much more research will be required to adequately resolve the issue.

Reviewed 12 March 2003