Climate Change and Rising Sea Levels

CLIMATE CHANGE AND RISING SEA LEVELS 9

ClimateChange and Rising Sea Levels

ClimateChange and Rising Sea Levels

Climatechange involves alteration of regular climate condition.Meteorologists detect the changes through using statisticalcalculations that record either or both mean and variability ofclimate pattern over a long period such as more than a decade.Climate change can result from human activities such as deforestationof construction of a large water body in an area like a dam. However,it can also emanate from natural factors. On the contrary, the UnitedNations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)defines climate change as long-term weather alteration that is eitherdirectly or indirectly associated with human actions that interferewith regular global atmosphere composition. On the other hand, risingsea level refers to swelling water volume on the earth’s surface.The latest IPCC report, the sea volume has been increasing at thespeed of 3.5 millimeters annually since 1990s. Geographers associatethe tendency to global warming, and it places several coastal islandsand cities such as Venice at the risk of being covered by ocean water(IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 2007).

Thermalexpansions and increased international ice melting are the two keycontributing factors enhancing the rise of ocean levels. Thermalexpansion results from the temperature increase on the ocean watersheat increases the water volume. Pugh (2004) claims that the thermalexpansion has caused significant water level increase between 1961and 2003. The second major cause of the altered amount of water inthe world is an international ice volume. Both Antarctic andGreenland ice cover account for the biggest percentage of the glaciercover on the surface of the earth. The decreasing alpine glaciers, aswell as the ice sheets on the mountain peaks have caused theincreased water volume from 1961 to 2003. The escalating rate ofglacier loss is mainly caused by the increased temperature resultingfrom climate change. This implies that the water volume on the oceansurface will keep rising as the temperature on the planet increases(Jacobs et al., 1992).

Predictingsea level increase is challenging is due to the uncertainty of thechange rate and extent of both the Antarctic and Greenland ice cover.According to a prediction by the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report,the ocean level protuberance will range between 18 and 59 centimetersby year 2100. Unfortunately, the study did not incorporate thefindings of the previous reports on melting glacier cover (IPCCFourth Assessment Report, 2007).

CAUSESOF SEA LEVEL RISING

Accordingto the Union of Concerned Scientists, global warming is the maincause of increasing sea volume. Since the inception of the industrialrevolution, human actions such as tropical forests deforestation,burning oil and charcoal has significantly increased heat-trappingconcentration in the atmosphere. The scientists assert that thepresent average temperature on earth has risen by 1.4°F compared to1880. As the air temperature increases, it heats the ocean waters.The oceans have absorbed 85% of the extra heat the atmosphere hastrapped since 1880. Water expands as heat increases. This makesthermal expansion the key cause of sea level rising in the last sevento ten decades after Industrial Revolution introduction (Flemming,2011).

Anothercontributing factor to the sea level rising includes accelerated rateof land ice melting. Surface ice such as ice sheets, glaciers, andice caps keep almost 75% of fresh water on the earth’s surface, andit is dwindling quickly because of the constantly increasingtemperature. Land ice melts partially during the winter and thenrecovers the lost volume through increased condensation during thewinter (Jacobs et al., 1992). Nonetheless, the increased temperaturehas made ice condensation during the winter significantly less thanthe quantity that melts away during the summer. Recent studies onGreenland ice sheets, glaciers, and ice caps indicate that the rateof melting exceeds that of ice formation, thereby, leading toincreased water volume in the oceans. Ice loss accounts for more thanhalf an inch between 1993 and 2008 (Union of Concerned Scientists,2013).

Alternatingocean currents and local land sinking are other minor causes of therising sea level. These factors cause “hot spots” experiencinghigher sea level rise than the average rate. Examples of regionsaffected by these changes include the United States’ East and GulfCoasts (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2013).

RISKSASSOCIATED WITH SEA LEVEL RISING

Presently,over 100 million US citizens reside in coastal regions. The areasoften have vast, low-lying ground in counties such as South Carolina,Louisiana, California, Florida, and North Carolina (Storlazzi &ampGriggs, 2000). One of the dangers of sea level rising in coastalregions includes degradation and erosion of the shoreline. Increasedsea height permit waves to break at far distance inland. Thisenhances the risk of erosion. Second, increased sea level leads tobig storm rushes that are caused by strong winds pushing waterinland. The rising sea level allows formation of bigger water waveswith higher risks of destroying infrastructure and homes. Third, sealevel increase facilitates further intrusion of saltwater inland(Jacobs et al., 1992). The seawater, in turn, increases saltconcentration in the fresh water making it unsuitable for agricultureand farming purposes (Nandy &amp Bandyopadhya, 2011). Lastly, aslight increase in the sea water level would lead to permanentflooding. Property worth over one trillion dollars will be submergedin United States alone if the sea level increases by only two feetpast the present height. Over 50% of the property that would be atrisk of flood damage in the US is in Florida.

ADDRESSINGSEA LEVEL RISING

Sealevel rise is presently a reality in many coastal cities, rangingfrom Florida to Alaska. Local communities in the affected regions arestruggling with developing effective solutions for solving theproblem. The solutions to sea level rising vary from protectingcoastal properties to moving away from the flooded areas.Traditionally, coastal societies managed to stay safe from the risksof sea level rise through replacing eroded sand on the beaches toconstructing sleeves and sea walls. The traditional methods areefficient in controlling damage and flooding, but the solutions arenot sustainable on long term (Pugh, 2004).

Introducingnatural buffers offers the most efficient solutions for achieving orbringing back long-term sea level rising solution. Examples ofnatural buffers include barrier mangroves, tidal wetlands, andislands. The barriers assists in defending coastlines while at thesame time offering extra ecosystem services. On the contrary, landvulnerable to flooding can be used temporary when the water hasresided. Constructing channels may also help in getting rid of excessfloods in low-lying land temporarily. However, most coastalcommunities are forced to consider the bleak option of moving tohigher grounds that are safe from sea floods.

Inthe future, the strategies for addressing sea level rising willprobably change since sea level rising is foreclosing some initiallyefficient methods. Similarly, researchers are also discovering new,efficient, and eco-friendly solutions with potential for offeringlong-term resilience to the problems (National Research Council(U.S.). &amp United States, 2007). Scientists are continuouslydeveloping advanced knowledge on tradeoffs and risks associated withaddressing climate change problem. In order to identify the besttechnique for addressing the unique problem for each coastalcommunity, the stakeholders will require coordinating policies andsharing experiences at the national, local, regional, and statejurisdictions (Pugh, 2004).

Nevertheless,as scientists continue researching for the best techniques foraddressing the reality of sea level rising and climate changeproblem, reducing global warming emissions has remained a keystrategy for lowering te rate and scale of sea level increase.Besides, it offers a long-term solution to sea level rising at anaffordable cost (Nandy &amp Bandyopadhya, 2011).

HOWCLIMATE CHANGE AND RISING SEA LEVELS HAS DEVELOPED

Accordingto scientists, human activities are the major causes of globalwarming. Humans` actions release carbon dioxide gas into theenvironment after burning fuels such as natural gas, coal, and oils.The energies are widely used for various purposes such as heatinghomes, powering vehicles, and generating electricity. Carbon dioxideacts as a blanket that traps heat within the surface of the earth,thereby, leading to global warming associated with the climate change(Pugh, 2004).

Onthe other hand, global warming has accelerated the rate of land ice,ice caps, and glacier melting. Nandy and Bandyopadhya ( 2011) assertsthat the water has risen by approximately half an inch at Hugliestuary, India due to increased ice melting from highland regions.Land ice and ice caps store 70% of fresh water on earth, thusincreased melting rate contributes to the rising of sea levels (Nandy&amp Bandyopadhya, 2011).

Whenwater is exposed to heat, it increases in volume. The seas haveabsorbed over 70% of the excess heat trapped in the atmosphere,thereby, leading to thermal expansion of the water bodies. Theincreased volume has accounted for a significant sea level rise. Thecombination of thermal expansion and increased water flow from themelting ice has caused considerable water increase in the atmosphere(Cramer et al., 2006).

HOWHUMANS ARE MAKING GLOBAL WARMING AND SEA LEVEL RISING WORSE

Humanactivities do contribute to climate change, and sea level risethrough burning fossil fuels and other substances that emit carbondioxide. Carbon dioxide acts like a blanket trapping heat close tothe surface of the ground. The natural concentration of carbondioxide in the atmosphere ranges between 180 and 300 parts permillion (ppm) (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2013). However,increased burning of fossil fuels like petroleum and coal hasincreased both carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases responsiblefor increased trapping of heat in the atmosphere. Currently, carbon(IV) oxide concentration is approximately 400ppm,which is 40% above the highest natural levels ever attained withinthe last 800,000 years. Second, human activities are quicklydepleting forests and other green vegetation required for removingcarbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis process.Healthy plants require carbon dioxide for healthy growth (Flemming,2011).

Deforestationof tropical forests has contributed in the accumulation of greenhousegases. Tropical forests extract approximately 10% of the entiregreenhouse gases in the environment. Therefore, increased humandestruction of the forests results in accumulation of greenhousegases associated with temperature increase (Flemming, 2011). Inaddition, the public lacks adequate information on effective methodsof addressing climate change. This prevents them from takingappropriate precautions for preventing global warming effects.

Humanactivities such as farming and irrigation have necessitatedextraction of water from the underground aquifers to supplementnatural precipitation. Farmers practicing large-scale crop productionoften extract large amounts of underground water that eventuallyflows into the sea. The water has significantly contributed to thesea level rising (Storlazzi &amp Griggs, 2000). Climate change hasenhanced the significance of using underground water in farming inmany places affected by drought. Scientists predict that extensiveuse of underground water in farming has significantly led to seaheight increase (Pugh, 2004).

POSSIBLESOLUTIONS TO GLOBAL WARMING

Scientistshave proposed several feasible solutions that humans can use reducingcarbon emissions on the earth that will in turn assist in decreasingglobal warming effect. The resolutions are crucial for maintaining ahealthier and safer world for the future generations. The firststrategy is through reducing greenhouse gases and carbon dioxideemissions. The industrialized countries have developed strategies andemission-sieving technology that extracts toxic gases in car exhaustsand factory chimneys. Both developed and developing countries signedthe Kyoto Protocol, which is an international agreement for reducingcarbon emissions associated with global warming into the atmosphere(IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 2007).

Second,stoppingdeforestation of tropical forests and embarking on thereafforestation of zones that vegetation has been destroyed can helpin reducing climate change and sea level rising (Flemming, 2011).According to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (2007), tropicalforests destruction causes approximately 10% of the entire worldgreenhouse gas emissions. The forests extract carbon (iv) oxideduring the photosynthesis process, and then gives out oxygen thatprevents global warming (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 2007).

Third,providing the public with comprehensive information regarding globalwarming can help in winning the fight against global warming.However, special interest groups, media pundits, and biased thinktanks sponsored by fossil fuel and associated industries putuncertainty in global warming reality. The salvo misinformation fromthe partisan sources confuse and mislead the public regarding theincreasing global warming effects, thus making it difficult toexecute the proposed strategies for reducing artificial emissionsthat lead to climate change (Pugh, 2004).

Lastly,educating the public on the effects of climate change and sea levelrising can help in averting risks associated with the two events.Various global warming outcomes are inescapable, including severe andregular heat waves, sea level rise and flooding, occasional wildfirehazards, and extreme weather conditions. Although many of theseeffects could have been prevented a few decades ago, but failure ofthe concerned authorities to take appropriate steps has made theproblems escalate to irreversible limits. The public should thenbrace itself with knowledge for coping with the problems using theright means (Pugh, 2004).

IMPLEMENTINGCLIMATE CHANGE AND RISING SEA LEVELS SOLUTIONS

Severalsolutions that can help in alleviating climate change and sea levelincrease are applicable in the contemporary world. For example,humans should adopt using green energy that does not destroy theenvironment or emit greenhouse gases. For example, solar energy,hydroelectricity, wind power, and geothermal electricity are allfeasible alternatives of clean energy (Nandy &amp Bandyopadhya,2011). Although the initial costs of installing these eco-friendlyenergies are high, several government and nongovernmentalorganizations are developing affordable plans that can bring down thecost of initial investment. For example, the government has liftedtaxes on solar panels and other equipment required for tapping thegreen energy to make them affordable to many people (Union ofConcerned Scientists, 2013).

Usingadvanced technologies such as fuel cell, electric, and hybrid cartechnologies can also help in reducing the amount of greenhouse gasesreleased into the atmosphere. Scientists have also developed biofuelsthat can be used instead of fossil fuels. The biofuels areeco-friendly solutions to the global warming since they emit little,or even zero, greenhouse gases associated with global warming.Presently, vehicles contribute a significant percentage of carbondioxide through exhaust fumes. Fortunately, cleaner oil substitutesmanufactured using ethanol, garbage, wood, and grass produce lowerpollutions than the fossil fuels (Cramer et al., 2006).

Onthe same note, reafforestation of cut down forests is still possible.The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) asserts thatdestruction of tropical forests accounts for a tenth of greenhousegases accumulation in the world. As a result, the organization hasproposed each country to retain forest cover of approximately 10% ofits entire land (Flemming, 2011). World forest cover maintainscrucial ecological processes, including carbon storage and watercycle. Maintaining the recommended 10% forests can help inmaintaining clean and safe environment that can support healthylifestyle (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2013).

THEFUTURE OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND SEA LEVEL RISING

Ifthe current sea level increase and climate change causes will not beappropriately addressed, several essential climate-sensitivestructures such as water resources, food supply, coastal systems, icesheets, atmospheric circulation, health, and infrastructure will benegatively affected (Nandy &amp Bandyopadhya, 2011). For instance,changing climatic conditions have made former arable landsunproductive due to reduced and unpredictable precipitation. Theflash floods, heat waves, and droughts are also potential outcomes ofclimate change.

Recentscientific study on climate change indicates that several uniquesystems are susceptible to extinction. For example, high mountainecosystems and communities, and polar systems will persist in thefuture because the ice cover is constantly decreasing. Over time,both animals and humans depend on the ice for shelter and food fortheir survival will have to look for alternative food source sinceice is reducing constantly. Animals that hunt in the cold regionssuch as the polar bear are vulnerable to extinction or adaptation toanother environment because ice caps and vast land glacier might meltaway entirely in the future. The global temperature has increased by2.50Cbetween 1980 and 1999.

Thecorals are susceptible to depletion through bleaching effect. As thesea water level rises and its temperature increases, the corals areexposed to higher bleaching rate. Corals cannot withstand thermalstress because it increases bleaching and death of creatures thatreside in the corals. The increasing sea temperature and reducingcoral sizes are making organisms adapt to these changes, otherwisethey are at risk of becoming extinct.

Sealevel rising will cause flooding in lowland coastal regions. In thenext century, several coastal cities and small islands such asFlorida and Venice might get submerged in the water in the future.Similarly, people will be forced to move from low-lying regions tohigher grounds where they would be safe from the excess floodingwater.

CANHUMANS STOP CLIMATE CHANGE AND SEA LEVEL RISING?

Humanbeings can stop climate change and sea level rising since they havecaused the problem. However, implementation of the solutions mighttake a long time because it is a long-term process. The main strategyof addressing the problems is through reducing the amount ofgreenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

  • Using fuel-efficient cars. Hybrid cars and automobiles using biofuels will reduce greenhouse gases emission

  • Houses should be made airtight. This would in turn reduce the amount of energy used in cooling a house

  • Policymakers should introduce strict regulations directing everyone to observe climate change

  • Government should subsidize the cost of acquiring and installing renewable energy generating equipment such as solar panels, windmills, and magnet generators that do not produce toxic gases

  • Humans should intensify natural forests conservation and reafforestation of deforested regions

RESPONSIBLEPERSONS FOR ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE AND SEA LEVEL RISING

Everyhuman being has a responsibility of controlling climate change andsea level rising. Scientists investigate effective strategies foraddressing climate change issues and forward the information topolicymakers, as well as community leaders. The public in turnimplements the measures scientists propose for mitigating climatechange and sea level rising (Pugh, 2004). For example, researchersadvise the government to pass regulations requiring car owners,manufacturing industries, and homeowners to adopt green technology.However, the citizens make the final decision to implement theproposed solutions (National Research Council (U.S.). &amp UnitedStates, 2007).

Insummary, sea level rising and climate change is a reality affectingthe environment, human health, and climate. Greenhouse gases, such ascarbon dioxide, are the main cause of climate change. The gasesabsorb and retain heat within the earth’s lower atmosphere,thereby, making the temperature on the lower hemisphere than usual.The increased temperature accelerates ice-caps, land-ice, and glaciermelting. The water from the melting ice flows into oceans leading tosea level rise. The increasing sea volume has placed property worthtrillions of dollars at risk of inundation. On the other hand,climate change has been causing frequent extreme temperatureincreases, droughts, and high precipitation and flooding in someregions. Unpredictable weather patterns have significantly made humanactivities and economy development challenging.

References

Storlazzi,C.D. &amp Griggs, G.B. (2000). “Influence of El Niño–SouthernOscillation (ENSO) events on the evolution of central California’sshoreline,” GeologicalSociety of America Bulletin.112 (2). p. 236–249.

Nandy,S. &amp Bandyopadhya, B. (2011). “Trend of sea level change in theHugli estuary, India,” IndianJournal of Geo-Marine Sciences.40(6): pp. 802-812

Field,B.C. et al. (2014). “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, andVulnerability,” WGIIAR5 Phase I Report Launch.

Pugh,D. T. (2004). Changingsea levels: Effects of tides, weather and climate.Cambridge [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Cramer,W., Schellnhuber, H. J., ADCC, &amp International Symposium onStabilisation of Greenhouse Gas Concentrations, Avoiding DangerousClimate Change. (2006). Avoidingdangerous climate change: [International Symposium on Stabilisationof Greenhouse Gas Concentrations, Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change,(ADCC), Cambridge[u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press.

NationalResearch Council (U.S.)., &amp United States. (2007). Glaciers,ice sheets, and sea level: Effect of a CO2-induced climatic change :report of a workshop held in Seattle, Washington, September 13-15,1984.Springfield, Va: Available from the National Technical InformationService.

Jacobs,S. S., Helmer, H. H., Frolich, R.M., Jenkins, A. &amp Doake, C.S.M.(1992). “Melting of ice shelves and the mass balance ofAntarctica,” Journalof Glaciology,38 (130): 374-387

IPCCFourth Assessment Report (2007). Climate Change 2007.IntergovernementalPannel on Climate Change.Web. retrieved on August 3, 2014 fromhttp://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/mains1.html

Unionof Concerned Scientists. (2013). Causes of Sea Level Rise. Web.Retrieved on August 3, 2014 fromhttp://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/global_warming/Causes-of-Sea-Level-Rise.pdf

FlemmingR. (2011). Lossof Forest Diversity.United Nations Environmental Program.