Envisioning Future Sea Level Rise
In the past one hundred years, the Global Mean Sea Level has risen between 4 and 8 inches, and is currently rising at a rate of approximately 0.13 inches a year. However, the sea level rise "lock-in" — the rise we don't see now, but which, due to emissions and global warming, is being locked in for the future — is increasing 10 times faster. While our current sea level rise is at a modest, but still threatening inch per decade, the future rise is at a foot per decade.
Carbon pollution has already locked in four feet of sea level rise, and if emissions continue to rise we could experience sea level rise as high as 23 feet. Ben Strauss and Climate Central have combined to create an interactive map demonstrating the devastation from locked-in sea level rise. In the highly improbable scenario in which we stop increasing emissions by 2020, and proceed to clean up the atmosphere, the United States is mostly protected from the ravages of rising waters, though certain coastal communities will still be at risk. In more likely scenarios, however, millions of people are threatened, and entire cities may be destroyed.
Like many aspects of climate change, sea level rise is not consistent. In certain areas of the southern United States, for example, the sea is rising at rates as high as one third of an inch per year. Coastal areas in Texas and Louisiana are sinking, leading to an overall increase in the significance of even small increases in sea level. Cities and states around the world are developing adaptation and mitigation techniques, utilizing high-tech modeling systems. The World Bank has urged support for the threatened Maldives, though tangible solutions are yet to appear. Indeed, though research and support for adaptation are widespread, realistic options have lagged behind. Kiribati, the small South Pacific Island chain, is contemplating a mass migration to neighboring Fiji. And Cuba, after scientists released a report claiming that 122 towns will be damaged or destroyed by climate change, is planning to destroy coastal infrastructure in order to promote ecological revitalization.
Continue reading at ENN affiliate Worldwatch Institute.
Rising water image via Shutterstock.