It’s important to support legislation that seeks to reduce sea levels and diminish the effects of climate change, as new laws can create sweeping changes for a whole community, says Jennifer Walker
Climate change has been staining the global environment for decades, resulting in rampant pollution, extreme weather conditions, and perhaps the most concerning issue of all–rising sea levels.
On nearly every coastline globally, flooding is becoming more frequent and severe, storms are becoming more hazardous, and shorelines are eroding at a steady rate.
Even with the many steps that have been taken to lessen the effects of climate change, scientific studies have shown that rising sea levels will nevertheless have a tremendous impact on various global communities as soon as 2050.
What causes sea levels to rise?
The main culprit for rising sea levels is global warming, which causes sea levels to rise in two distinct ways. The primary reason that most people are familiar with is the melting of glaciers and ice sheets, which has added significant volume to the world’s oceans over time. As the globe warms, so too does the temperature of our oceans, further increasing the amount of liquid water on Earth’s surface.
The second cause is people, specifically those people financially benefiting from the fossil fuel industry. According to research out of Harvard, 100 fossil fuel companies contribute to 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions. The people who will suffer the most from this are low-income countries.
Who Is Affected by Rising Sea Levels?
While most coastal areas are widely affected by rising sea levels, one of the greatest tragedies of this climate change is how cultural heritage sites and low-income countries have been affected—and how they will see even more damage in the future.
The African continent is rife with cultural heritage sites along its coasts, particularly in its northern regions, many of which are at risk of being compromised by increasing sea levels. In a study conducted by faculty at the University of East Anglia, University of Cape Town, and other members of the environmental community, it was estimated that rising sea levels may threaten 70% of Africa’s heritage sites by 2050 if there is no severe reduction in carbon emissions sometime soon.
Low-income countries that don’t have the financial resources for coastal infrastructure also suffer from increased flooding and severe weather. Susmita Dasgupta, the Lead Environmental Economist for the World Bank, conducted a study on the effects of rising sea levels on developing countries in 2007. In her report, Dasgupta provided examples of how certain areas would be affected, with the displacement of 16.7 million people in Bangladesh serving as one of the most extreme scenarios.
What can we do?
The rise in global sea levels is somewhat difficult to ascertain due to various environmental factors, but studies conducted regarding the U.S. coast provide a concerning estimate nonetheless. Studies predict that by 2050, sea levels along the U.S. shoreline will rise 25-30cm, with levels being higher along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts due to greater land subsidence. These levels are likely to be similar or worse in other parts of the world due to warmer climates and less fortified shorelines.
While it will take much more than individual action to curb the progression of rising sea levels, every small contribution still count. Reducing your carbon footprint and lowering your greenhouse gas emission can help prevent the globe from getting even warmer than it already is.
Preserving wetlands and saving trees also allows more water to be absorbed by nature instead of letting it flood residential areas. It’s also important to support legislation that seeks to reduce sea levels and diminish the effects of climate change, as new laws can create sweeping changes for a whole community.
Earth is our home, and it’s our responsibility to protect it and keep it habitable for future generations. If we hold ourselves and others accountable for the effects of climate change, in time, we can foster a world that treats us as well as we treat it.
Feature Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash