Over the past decade or so, “sea level rise” has turned from a far off fantasy to a real crisis and unfortunately, from a term of shock to one of nonchalance. But, sea level rise is not a new concept in science. Sea level cycles can be traced back five million years where depending on various factors including changes in the atmospheric climate; sea level will either increase or decrease. But, these natural cycles can be manipulated by drastic changes such as the current anthropogenic cause of climate change, which is causing severe issues in many realms including a rapid change in sea level. As a result of the vast amounts of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere, the ice caps are melting specifically the massive ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica; sea level is expected to continually rise at an unprecedented rate. If no action is taken to combat this issue, the future will be a bleak one filled with not only submerged islands and coastal areas but also severe economic loss for the vulnerable coastal areas are also the most productive in producing monetary gains through tourism and real estate among other major developments located in those areas that have a high potential to be affected.
There is no disagreement among scientists about these issues and many states have passed the controversy that the media has created over this urgent global topic. It is clear that the Earth is warming at a much faster rate than previously expected by scientists; a rate that will continue to increase unless there is a paradigm shift and states come together to combat this destructive world problem. As stated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 2 to 11.5°F over the next hundred years. Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather” (EPA 2014). The issue on climate change is that there are various subcategories of what has occurred and what will occur as a result of this all encompassing issue. For example, dry places will get drier and wet places will get wetter which will affect the plants and animals as well as humans that live in these regions. Moreover, oceans are becoming more acidic and also warming which causes it to expand and implicates the marine wildlife we value on an economic level as well as a biological and ecosystem level.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has put out multiple papers on climate change this past year, all of which have a serious sense of urgency about what will happen especially to “the poor and vulnerable (who) will be most affected” (IPCC 2014). This latest report also noted that the world is “ill prepared” for the consequences and risks of climate change. John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State adds, “There are those who say we can’t afford to act. But waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic.” Sea level change is a natural occurrence that fluctuates based on certain cycles and oscillates between glacial and interglacial cycles. But, because of human involvement, with respect to the exponential production of greenhouse gases that unnaturally impact our climate, the natural sea level cycles are affected.
Overall, sea level rise has come to be an extremely prominent and urgent issue that needs to be acted upon immediately in order to mitigate the potential devastating effects of the rising sea. In the past, sea level oscillates between particular time periods in a natural and predictable manner. But, now, because of anthropogenic climate change, sea level has deviated off its normal cycle and is expected to continually rise at record levels and cause catastrophic damage. With this, vulnerable and low-lying areas as well as costal regions will be severely impacted both environmentally as well as economically. Therefore, immediate action needs to be taken by both federal and local governments as well as the global governments in order to create positive changes that will not negatively impact the climate and further unprecedented rising of the sea level.
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