STOCKHOLM The ice of Greenland and the rest of the Arctic is melting faster than expected and could help raise global sea levels by as much as 5 feet this century, dramatically higher than earlier projections, an authoritative international assessment says.
The findings "emphasize the need for greater urgency" in combating global warming, says the report of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP), the scientific arm of the eight-nation Arctic Council.
The warning of much higher seas comes as the world's nations remain bogged down in their two-decade-long talks on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
Rising sea levels are expected to cause some of global warming's worst damage - from inundated small islands to possible flooding of New York City's subways. Oceans will not rise uniformly worldwide, because of currents, winds and other factors, but such low-lying areas as Bangladesh and Florida will likely be hard-hit.
The new report, whose executive summary was obtained by The Associated Press, is to be delivered to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and foreign ministers of the other seven member nations at an Arctic Council meeting next week in Greenland.
Drawing on improved research techniques and recent scientific papers, the AMAP report updates forecasts made by the U.N.'s expert panel on climate change in its last major assessment in 2007.
The melting of Arctic glaciers and ice caps, including Greenland's massive ice sheet, is projected to help raise global sea levels by 35 to 63 inches by 2100, AMAP said, although it noted that estimate was highly uncertain.
That's up from the 2007 projection of 7 to 23 inches by the U.N. panel. The AMAP group's main function is to advise the nations surrounding the Arctic - the U.S., Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland - on threats to its environment.