- Shoreline erosion and degradation. Rising sea levels allow waves to penetrate further inland, even during calm conditions, increasing the potential for erosion.
Amplified storm surges. Coastal storms often cause storm surges, which occur when high winds push water inland. With rising seas, storm surges occur on top of an elevated water level and reach farther inland, with potentially catastrophic damage to homes and infrastructure.
One of the biggest threats from
global warming comes from the impact on sea levels. If global emissions are stabilised by the end of century, which is one of the scenarios laid out by the IPCC, seas will continue rising for at least another 100 to 150 years, with an increase of up to two metres above current levels likely. In 2015, a study by Professor James Hansen of Columbia University and 16 other climate scientists said a sea level rise of three metres could be a reality by the end of the century.
However, the collapse of Arctic ice is happening faster than climate computer models predict. The Arctic has already heated up by 2°C above pre-industrial levels, twice the global average. Some hotspots, including parts of the Fram strait, have warmed by 4C. Since 2014 there has also been a dramatic plunge in sea ice around Antarctica – to the extent that Antarctica has lost as much sea ice in four years as the Arctic lost in 34 years. Antarctica is on land so the melting of this ice has the greatest impact on seal levels.
- Human activities, such as burning coal and oil and cutting down tropical forests, have increased atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping gases and caused the planet to warm by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880.
Rising temperatures are warming ocean waters, which expand as the temperature increases. This thermal expansion was the main driver of global sea level rise for 75 - 100 years after the start of the Industrial Revolution, though its relative contribution has declined as the shrinking of land ice has accelerated.
Research published in the journal, Geophysical Research Letters shows the amount of ice loss is doubling every decade, and sea level rise is now running at the extreme end of projections made just a few years ago. A complete loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet would drive global sea levels up by about five metres, drowning coastal cities around the world.
Adam Sobel is professor of applied physics & mathematics at Columbia University studies atmospheric and climate dynamics. He says by 2050 “we could see irreversible damage to global climate systems resulting in a world of chaos where political panic is the norm and we are on a path towards the end of civilization.”
- Satellites are used to measure sea level and monitor the situation.
A report in May 2019 by The National Centre for Climate Restoration in Australia, says that “feedback cycles could push warming to 3C by 2050, making climate change a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilization”. Professor Joseph Stiglitz at Columbia University, and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers says: “The climate emergency is our
war. Our lives and civilization as we know it are at stake, just as they were in the
War.” Professor Hans Schellnhuber, Emeritus director of the Potsdam Institute and science advisor to
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, recently said if we continued down this present path there was a real risk that human civilization would end.
In 2019, the Global Commission on Adaptation released a report which said the world’s readiness for the inevitable effects of the
climate crisis is 'gravely insufficient' and this "will result in poverty, water shortages and levels of migration soaring, with an 'irrefutable toll on human life'." The authors added that a trillion-dollar investment is needed to avert 'climate apartheid', where the wealthy pay to escape most of the impact while 100 million people could be driven into poverty by 2030.
ALREADY TOO LATE FOR SOME
- Those who are most vulnerable to the rising sea levels are the people whose community is built on small islands and on coastlines. Ultimately, these people will lose
Kiribati, The Maldives, The Seychelles, The Torres Strait Islands, Tegua, The Soloman Islands, Micronesia, Palau, The Marshall Islands, The Carteret Islands, Tuvalu and Bangladesh:
These are the islands that will be left underwater. These are the islands where the
immediate environmental refugees will come from.
Since at least the start of the 20th century, the average global sea level has been rising. Between 1900 and 2016, the sea level rose by 16–21 cm (6.3–8.3 in). More precise data gathered from satellite radar measurements reveal an accelerating rise of 7.5 cm (3.0 in) from 1993 to 2017, which is a trend of roughly 30 cm (12 in) per century. This acceleration is due mostly to human-caused global warming, which is driving thermal expansion of seawater and the melting of land-based ice sheets and glaciers. Between 1993 and 2018, thermal expansion of the oceans contributed 42% to sea level rise; the melting of temperate glaciers, 21%; Greenland, 15%; and Antarctica, 8%. Climate scientists expect the rate to further accelerate during the 21st century.
Projecting future sea level is challenging, due to the complexity of many aspects of the climate system. As climate research into past and present sea levels leads to improved computer models, projections have consistently increased. For example, in 2007 the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected a high end estimate of 60 cm (2 ft) through
2099, but their 2014 report raised the high-end estimate to about 90 cm (3 ft). A number of later studies have concluded that a global sea level rise of 200 to 270 cm (6.6 to 8.9 ft) this century is "physically plausible". A conservative estimate of the long-term projections is that each Celsius degree of temperature rise triggers a sea level rise of approximately 2.3 meters (4.2 ft/degree Fahrenheit) over a period of two millennia: an example of climate inertia.
THE ICE CAPS MELT
- This diagram shows how warm water eats away at the leading edge of the
ice cap causing calving of icebergs that then drift off to melt
completely. One such iceberg sank the Titanic
on April 14 1912. Hence, calving of icebergs is nothing new, just the
accelerated rate that is the problem.
The sea level will not rise uniformly everywhere on Earth, and it will even drop in some locations. Local factors include tectonic effects and subsidence of the land, tides, currents and storms. Sea level rises can influence human populations considerably in coastal and island regions. Widespread coastal flooding is expected with several degrees of warming sustained for millennia. Further effects are higher storm-surges and more dangerous tsunamis, displacement of populations, loss and degradation of agricultural land and damage in cities. Natural environments like marine ecosystems are also affected, with fish, birds and plants losing parts of their habitat.
Societies can respond to sea level rise in three different ways: to retreat, to accommodate and to protect. Sometimes these adaptation strategies go hand in hand, but at other times choices have to be made among different strategies. Ecosystems that adapt to rising sea levels by moving inland might not always be able to do so, due to natural or artificial barriers.
LONG TERM SEA LEVEL RISE
The large volume of ice on the Antarctic continent stores around 70% of the world's fresh
Both the Greenland ice sheet and Antarctica have tipping points for warming levels that could be reached before the end of the 21st century. Crossing such tipping points means that ice-sheet changes are potentially irreversible: a decrease to pre-industrial temperatures may not stabilize the ice sheet once the tipping point has been crossed. Quantifying the exact temperature change for which this tipping point is crossed remains controversial. For Greenland, estimates roughly range between 1 and 4 °C (2 to 7 ℉) above pre-industrial. The lower of these values has already been passed.
Melting of the Greenland ice sheet could contribute an additional 4 to 7.5 m (13 to 25 ft) over many thousands of years. A 2013 study estimated that there is a 2.3 m (7 ft 7 in) commitment to sea level rise for each degree of temperature rise within the next 2,000
years. More recent research, especially into Antarctica, indicates that this is probably a conservative estimate and true long-term sea level rise might be higher. Warming beyond the 2 °C (3.6 °F) target potentially lead to rates of sea-level rise dominated by ice loss from Antarctica. Continued
carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel sources could cause additional tens of metres of sea level rise, over the next millennia, and the available fossil fuel on Earth is even enough to ultimately melt the entire Antarctic ice sheet, causing about 58 m (190 ft) of sea level rise. After 500 years, sea level rise from thermal expansion alone may have reached only half of its eventual level, which models suggest may lie within ranges of 0.5 to 2 m (2 to 7 ft).
- Roughly a third of the US population—more than 100 million people—live in coastal counties. Coastal states with large areas of low-lying land, including Louisiana,
Florida, North Carolina,
California, and South Carolina, are particularly vulnerable to rising seas and coastal storm surges.
Many low-lying coastal land areas are expected to be gradually submerged by rising sea levels. A rise of two feet above today's sea level would put more than $1 trillion of property and structures in the US at risk of inundation, with roughly half of that value concentrated in in Florida.
Saltwater can reach further into coastal groundwater sources as sea level rises, increasing the salinity of freshwater used for drinking and agriculture.
RECENT VICTIMS OF RISING SEA LEVELS
Kiribati is about halfway between Hawaii and
Australia and is made up of 32 low-lying atolls and one raised island. Most of its population has already moved to one island, Tarawam, after the rest of their land disappeared beneath the ocean.
Kiribati has recently purchased land in
Fiji. Its residents will be relocated in the event that sea-level rise drowns the Pacific island nation and displaces its population of just over 100,000 people. The people of Kiribati are the face of poverty in climate change. The average age of their population is just 22. They are impoverished and vulnerable.
President Anote Tong has predicted that his country will become uninhabitable in 30 to 60 years. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated that the
residents of Kiribati may be forced to leave their islands as a result of climate change. “Entire populations could thus become stateless,” the agency wrote.
“Our voice should count and our stories should be told, and the world should listen and take action. For we are the trial, we are the ‘early warning system’ to what the world will face when sea level rise continues unheeded” – Head of State President Tong.
- This is a humanitarian crisis. As the sea levels rise, homes and businesses are flooded, water sources are contaminated, crops are destroyed and a nation is lost to the sea.
There has been an unprecedented rise in sea levels in the last century. The rise is unmatched by any time in the last 6,000 years. A study, conducted by the Australian National University, found that there is no evidence that sea levels have changed by more than 20cm in the last 6,000 years. Since the start of the 20th century, however, there has been a 20cm rise in sea levels.
The Republic of Maldives, in the Indian
Ocean, consists of 1,190 islands. 80% of the land lies below 1m. Housing and critical infrastructure in the Maldives, including five airports and 128 harbors, are concentrated along coastlines. In 2007, a series of swells forced the evacuation of more than 1,600 people from their homes and damaged more than 500 housing units. The Maldives is built on coral reefs. Not only is the rising sea level threatening the very existence of the island, but the increasing sea temperature is destroying the precious
- Unsurprisingly, the Maldives could disappear altogether, one of the
very popular holiday destinations. Ironically, it the air travel to
destinations like this is part of the cause. Hence, we need zero carbon
transport if visits to such destinations are to be sustainable.
Rising sea levels could make thousands of islands from the Maldives to Hawaii 'uninhabitable within decades'
The research, published in the journal Science Advances, looked specifically at a case study from the Marshall Islands – a country already feeling the harmful effects of climate change.
Scientists used current global
greenhouse gas emission rates to predict future impacts of the changing climate on Roi-Namur, part of the Marshall Islands’ Kwajalein Atoll.
They found that when local sea level around the island reaches one metre higher than present, at least half of the island will flood every year.
Marshall Islands politicians have been particularly vocal in calls for world governments to meet the terms of the Paris climate agreement and limit global warming due to the existential threat their country faces.
The islands are home to around 70,000 people, and experts have said it is likely they will all have to be evacuated as the sea levels rise.
The country’s former foreign minister, Tony de Brum, described a global temperature increase of over 2C above pre-industrial levels as “a death warrant for us”.
At a recent international meeting in London to agree on emissions targets for the shipping industry, Marshall Islands environment minister David Paul made an impassioned plea to those gathered to take urgent action to halt climate change.
Mr Paul said the decision would “determine whether Marshallese children born today will have the chance of a secure and prosperous life or will have to leave the land of their ancestors and set sail across the oceans to an uncertain future”.
UNITE - What can you do as a surfer? Firstly, educate yourself on climate change and sea level rise and take actions that address the big problem: climate change. Reduce your environmental footprint through conservation, recycling and changing consumption patterns. Focus on your ability and approach to changing laws; for example, campaign for low carbon public transport and organize to elect officials who protect the environment. Secondly, be aware of the potential local impacts. In your coastal communities, educate decision makers and citizens and be a voice for decisions that have a long term view, account for sea level rise, preserve beaches and allow for shoreward migration of coastal habitat, decisions such as managed retreat of threatened infrastructure rather than placing seawalls to protect poorly located infrastructure.
“In the U.S., you have the best data set on what’s happening in the world, and yet it’s not used in public policy,” observed Robert Nicholls, professor of coastal engineering, University of Southampton, England. It’s a paradigm we surely need to reverse.
The Seychelles consists of 115-155 small islands. It has been predicted that the Seychelles could see up to 10 percent more sea-level rise than the global average. It has an estimated
population of around 84,600. The economy relies heavily on tourism and
tunafishing. The tourism industry is rapidly overcrowding the beaches of the Seychelles. The Seychelles location in the Indian Ocean makes it highly vulnerable to tropical cyclones, floods,
surges, landslides and tsunamis. The risk is further exacerbated by climate change and sea-level rise. The 2013 cyclone caused
flooding and landslides that led to damages and losses exceeding $8.4 million.
“I am not here to celebrate the limited progress, but to speak out once again, as we have always done, of our fight for survival, our human right to exist,” the president, James Michel, said in a speech at the 2009 UN climate meeting in Copenhagen conference.
Bird island in the Seychelles archipelago is one of the low-lying coralline islands that risks submersion with sea-level rise and climate change.
The Seychelles archipelago are amongst the 52 small island states.
2014 - Climate change experts have predicted that rising sea levels affecting the world’s 52 small island states, will be as much as four times higher than the rest of the world. The forecast was made recently in the SIDS Foresight Report, issued by the United Nations’ Environment Programme (UNEP).
Rising sea levels remain the biggest threat to the environmental and socio-economic stability of small island developing states (SIDS), and increased levels of vulnerability means losses that run into trillions of dollars each year, according to UNEP.
The SIDS Foresight Report, which was produced by a panel of 11 SIDS experts, presents the outcome of the foresight exercise and is one of UNEP's contributions to the Third International SIDS Conference, which will take place in Samoa in September this year. It identified the impact of sea level rise as the chief concern among a laundry list of twenty emerging issues impacting the environmental resilience and sustainable development of SIDS.
The Torres Strait Islands
The Torres Strait Islands are located between Australia and New Guinea and are made up of 274 islands with a population over 8,000. Evidence indicates that the dangerous levels of sea rise may cause up to 2000 Torres Strait Islanders to be displaced.
“The biggest question is, what do people want to do with their lives? Is it good being resilient, or are we trying to stand in front of something that will wash over us any time?” – Joseph Elu, chairman of the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA)
In 2005, the UN delcared the 100 residents of Tegua to be the first climate change refugees. Between 1997 and 2009, the island sunk by 5 inches.
The Soloman Islands
The Solomon Islands are east of Papua New Guinea, and have a population of 584,578. Satellite data shows the sea near the Solomon Islands has risen annually by 8mm over the past 20 years, compared to the global annual average of 3mm. The average height above sea level is around 2m. More than 85% of the nation’s 550,000 people practise subsistence livelihoods in rural areas on an archipelago of more than 900 islands.
Micronesia, a western Pacific Island state located north of Papua New Guinea and east of Palau, is made up of 607 mountainous islands and low-lying coral atolls and is being eroded away by rising sea levels. The sea level near the island state is rising by 10 millimetres per year
Palau consists of eight principal islands and more than 250 smaller ones, about 500 miles southeast of the Philippines. Their population of 20,000 is being threatened by rising sea levels. Although Palau has higher points of around 30ft, these places are uninhabitable due to dense forest and hilly terrain.
“I’m scared for staying close to the water…I could not leave Palau. I mean, this is my island… If the land has to be under the water, I cannot move anyway” – says Palauan conservation officer Rodney Esebei.
The Carteret Islands
The Carteret Islanders of Papua New Guinea have become the world’s first entire community to be displaced by climate change. In the blink of an eye, without a lot of media attention, the families of the Carteret Islands have moved.The Carteret Islands are located in the south-west Pacific Ocean and were/is home to about 2,500 people. Nowhere on the islands is currently more than 1.2 meters above sea level. By 2015, the island will be completely underwater.
“If America can go to the Moon, if the Netherlands can build sea walls, can’t they do that to our islands? In Copenhagen we have to face the fact that we have to make a U-turn. We have so many toys, so many things, that we do not need. We have to come to see that having a simple life is much better than a complicated life.” – A Clan Chief
The highest point of Tuvalu is 4.6m. It is halfway between the state of Hawaii and the nation of Australia. It consists of five coral atolls and four reef islands. The flooding and soil salination
are becoming a problem. The government has made plans to evacuate the entire population to other countries as it is believed that Tuvalu will be completely submerged by the end of the 21st century.
Prime Minister Saufatu Sapo’aga told the United Nations last year that the global-warming threat is no different from “a slow and insidious form of terrorism against us.”
2015 - Tuvalu was home to 11,000 people and 4.5 metres above sea level - climate change is already having a sudden and dramatic effect on the country and its economy.
In 2015 Cyclone Pam ripped across the island chain destroying 95 per cent of the country’s agricultural sector.
President Enele Sosense Spoaga visited Brussels in July to drum up support for the 1.5C proposal at the Paris talks.
He told journalists: “We need to save Tuvalu to save the world.
“If this island disappears under water, it is not the end of climate change. And I ask you what future do we hold? We need to collaborate as one human face to save human kind.”
Bangladesh, located in South Asia, experiences floods that cover about a quarter of the country every year. Climate change is making the floods worse and the 156 million people in the country are learning how to live with the effects. A 1m rise in sea levels would inundate 20 percent of the country’s landmass.
2007 - Rising sea levels in the Bay of Bengal are encroaching on vast flat agricultural lands in the southern districts of Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat, Jessore and Magura - resulting in soil salinity and other environmental hazards.
"In 1973, 1.5 million hectares of land had mild salinity. In 1997, this expanded to 2.5 million hectares," he said.
And while there has yet to be an up-to-date survey, he believed that figure to be more than three million hectares of
agricultural land now. Of 37 million people living in 12 coastal districts, 20 million had been affected by the expanding sea, he added.
A soil survey by six government agencies, including the BRRI and the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, found higher-than-acceptable soil salinity in 72 percent of all arable land of Magura district, about 200km from the sea.
2018 - No one knows exactly how many Bangladeshis are forced to move each year by temporary flooding caused by extreme storms, or by permanent flooding caused by a rise in sea level. But it could be up to 250,000 people a year, says the EJF.
“We are a state that is greatly threatened by the impacts of climate change,” says Munir Muniruzzaman (left), chair of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change and a former military adviser to the president of Bangladesh. “It has been estimated by the UN IPCC’s reports and analysis that a one-metre sea level rise in the south of the country will entail a 17-20% loss of territory to the sea, meaning that Bangladesh will lose up to 20% of its current landmass. It is going to create a very large climate refugee
Lets talk about it. Tell me how you feel about your islands being
United Nations is an organization that has failed to persuade
kleptocratic members to change their dirty
fossil fuel energy habits that are sending clouds of greenhouse gases into the air at an
alarming rate, causing rising sea levels. The reason being that their
more prominent members of the UN are the biggest users of fossil
fuels, with so
much invested in oil and gas
production that they cannot
give up this source of wealth creation, and so forsake their fellow man
- probably not giving them a second thought. Their shareholders want
their dividends no matter how much it hurts the planet.