Global inundation analysis model (Credit : CReSIS)
The Met Office has halved its "worst case" prediction for rising sea levels, in the latest instance of scientists being caught out for overstating the possible consequences of global warming.
Previously scientists had said oceans could rise by up to 13ft (4m) threatening cities like Shanghai, London and New York by 2100.
But it has been revised so that now the worse case scenario is just over 6ft 6in (2m).
This is still unlikely, but would mean the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and Tuvalu in the Pacific could be lost forever.
The most likely sea level rise this century remains between 8 and 23 inches (20-60cm), causing devastation in small island states and low lying countries like Bangladesh.
The report also found that the Atlantic Conveyor belt is not slowing down as much as previously thought.
The circulation of currents, also known as the Gulf Stream, keeps Britain warm and it was feared that if it slows down suddenly it could cause a ‘second ice age’.
The scenario was used in the Day After Tomorrow film and has even been blamed for the recent cold snaps, but it appears it is unlikely to affect Britain this century.
The revisions will be pounced on by sceptics as evidence that the Met Office has exaggerated climate change, especially after the debacle over last year's washout "barbecue summer"
However Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice, pointed out that overall the report found that most global warming predictions are the same or worse than previously thought.
“The evidence of the dangerous impacts of climate change is now clearer than ever,” she said.
The report looked at all the recent peer-reviewed papers on climate change on behalf of the UK Government.
The idea was to reassess the threats since the last major study on global warming was carried out by the United Nations science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in 2007.
It found that the melting of the Arctic is happening faster than thought, with ice free summers expected by the middle of this century.
Also deforestation could speed up as droughts in the Amazon cause massive forest fires.
It found that other dangerous ‘feed backs’ such as the methane released by thawing permafrost or wetlands is more likely as more evidence emerges.
“In most cases our new understanding has reinforced the last major study in 2007 – the degree of impact is about the same. In some cases our understanding leads us to conclude that the risks are greater,” added Dr Pope.
The report was launched at the UN Cancun Climate Change talks to highlight the threat of global warming.
More than 190 countries are gathered in the luxury resort in Mexico to decide the best way to stop global warming.
However the talks are at a deadlock at the moment as countries are failing to decide the best way to cut emissions.
Countries remain at loggerheads over whether to continue the Kyoto Protocol, which is the only existing agreement on global warming, or start again with a new legal treaty.
Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, is flying out to try and find a middle ground.
He insisted the talks are on track to an eventual legal treaty to stop global warming.
“The mood has been cautiously positive. People are talking. The show is on the road,” he said.
“But it is not enough. If we are to meet our objectives and lay the groundwork for a binding deal, week two must bring more urgency, more compromise, and more commitment.”
- DailyMail : Alarmist Doomsday warning of rising seas 'was wrong', says Met Office study
- TheIndependent : Rising sea level threatens 'hundreds' of Caribbean resorts, says UN report
- TheGuardian : Don't consign us to history, plead island states at Cancún
- NYTimes : As glaciers melt, science seeks data on rising seas