New Maps of Rising Seas

From the public domain source, the US EPA (2014): “This figure shows average absolute sea level change, which refers to the height of the ocean surface, regardless of whether nearby land is rising or falling. Satellite data are based solely on measured sea level, while the long-term tide gauge data include a small correction factor because the size and shape of the oceans are changing slowly over time.
[…]The shaded band shows the likely range of values, based on the number of measurements collected and the precision of the methods used.
. By US EPA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Of all the changes that are impacting the globe with climate change, few will be as overwhelming as sea level rise. Some cities, such as New York, are trying to address the problem head on. As Orrin Pilkey has described, North Carolina is taking a different approach; in that state business lobbyists have fought hard to create doubt about global warming. But regardless of what people say, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere continues to rise, the average global temperature increases year after year, and the mean sea level will be increasing over the coming decades.

Denise Lu and Christopher Flavelle’s have a wonderful (October 29, 2019) article in the New York Times titled Rising Seas Will Erase More Cities by 2050. The piece describes how new research shows that the sea level rises by 2050 will have a much greater impact than previously estimated. What is most powerful about their work are the maps. As the authors’ describe, most of Southern Vietnam will vanish by 2050. It is one thing to read those words. It’s another to see the map, and to imagine what that will truly mean. Similarly, most of Bangkok, Thailand will go beneath the waves. While much of Shanghai will survive, many nearby cities will disappear.

For another resource, The Daily Conversation channel on YouTube published a video in 2015 titled “Future Sea Level Rise: Top Ten Countries in danger.” Obviously, this information is a little out of date right now, but the video clips of what happens to Vietnam and Shanghai with sea level rise are still disturbing. The video is quite brief, at just four minutes and nine seconds long. The video said that it took its data from the ClimateCentral.org website.

There is a great deal of good news regarding change, such as the fact that Great Britain is rapidly moving towards a non-carbon electric grid, due in part to the astounding production of energy from wind around Scotland. Other nations are making rapid advances as well, including Spain. Despite the denialism from Texas to Alberta, if we cannot come together to make decarbonize our energy sources quickly, then many places that we love and need will be lost to rising seas. What future will Tampa, Florida have? For a careful look at what kind of a world we will face unless there is change, it’s worth reading Crawford Kilian’s article, If We Can’t Stop Hothouse Earth, We’d Better Learn to Live on It.  

In my “Introduction to International Studies” class I often use the free video offered by Australian Broadcasting Corporations “Foreign Correspondent” series. It’s worth viewing “Climate Kids” which looks at how youth are coming together in the climate movement. Perhaps our children will save the world yet. While it’s not about climate change, I also recommend Foreign Correspondent’s recent episode “Insectaggedon,” which I’ll be using in my online introduction class next quarter.

Shawn Smallman, 2019

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