The question is: What can we do to stop the seas from rising? This article explores the causes of rising sea levels, mitigation measures, processes that can slow the process, and the effects on coastal communities. It also outlines processes and alternatives to geo-engineering. The climate change problem is a complex one, with no clear answer. Yet, there are a number of solutions. Here are some of the most promising ones:
In the years ahead, many coastal cities will be affected by sea-level rise, and the problem must be addressed. The impact of sea-level rise on human lives will be profound, with as much as 700 million people expected to suffer flooding events each year. Mitigation measures are essential to help prevent such catastrophes, but how do you know what will work best? Below, we’ll take a look at some possible solutions.
According to the IPCC, there is a need for more action. By the end of this century, the average global sea level will rise between 28 and 60 cm. Despite efforts to reduce emissions, even if we do, we cannot completely avoid sea level rise. In order to stop sea level rise, we will need to adopt mitigation measures, which will address both adaptation and mitigation strategies. And even if we do not manage to prevent sea level rise, we’ll need to prepare to make necessary adjustments.
Seawalls and living shorelines can prevent coastal flooding by reducing the volume of seawater entering a city. The structures are built 5 to 6 feet above sea level and cost an estimated $600-$2,000 per linear foot. Seawalls must be reconstructed as the sea level rises. NYC is currently building a $335 million flood protection system around Manhattan after Hurricane Sandy caused $19 billion in damage.
While sea-level rise is inevitable, it will pose a grave threat to coastal communities. While coastal protection is a viable solution for some coastal cities, coastal erosion, and other factors can have a huge impact on the human population. For example, zoning laws can be changed to limit development in at-risk coastal areas, and proactively developing strategies to relocate vulnerable populations should be implemented. But the challenge of burden-sharing is a complex one, and innovative financing models and multi-stakeholder partnerships will be vital.
While wealthy nations and cities are investing in technical solutions to thwart sea level rise, these approaches are only temporary. While concrete walls and pump systems may help reduce risk temporarily, they can only go so far. The most successful cities are already taking a multi-pronged approach to the problem. The Dutch are already developing a system of 3,700km of hard defences – which includes the famous Maeslant Barrier – which is the equivalent of two Eiffel Towers!
Processes to reduce sea level rise
Global warming is causing the sea level to rise, but there are processes that can slow the process. The ocean isn’t warming at the same rate everywhere, and sea levels are rising faster in some areas than in others. Oil and water extraction in the Gulf of Mexico are contributing to the process as the land slowly settles. Eventually, most coastal areas will be affected by sea level rise, and scientists are continually refining their predictions.
Rising seas also threaten coastal ecosystems and wildlife. Many birds, including sea turtles, depend on coastal ecosystems to lay their eggs. Once a year, sea turtles return to the same location to lay their eggs. Once the sea level rises, physical barriers will block their return. This will affect the lives of these creatures and many others. But there are processes that can slow down sea level rise and help wildlife adapt.
The melting of ice sheets is the primary cause of future sea level rise. Global warming has already caused major changes in ice sheets. Ice sheets are larger and hold more ice than glaciers or ice caps. However, this change is irreversible in the short-term – reversing the retreat of the ice sheet would take centuries. Furthermore, the melting of mountain glaciers is also contributing to sea level rise.
Models for sea level rise have been created that incorporate all the physical processes that contribute to sea level rise. The ice-sheet model, for instance, calculates the contributions of the ice sheets to the global rise in sea levels. A general circulation model computes the expansion of the sea. Models that incorporate a range of physical processes can predict long delays. A better understanding of these processes is the first step in the prevention of catastrophic sea level rise.
Human impact on the oceans is another way to slow down the rate of sea level rise. Building dams and artificial reservoirs to store water can slow the rate of sea level rise. Humans also use wells to pump water from underground reservoirs. This water ultimately ends up in the ocean. While these human impact measures can slow down the pace of sea level rise, they cannot fully prevent it. In fact, they are unlikely to slow the rate of sea level rise as large glaciers melt and thermal expansion of ocean water.
Alternatives to geo-engineering
There are three main categories of geo-engineering proposals. These strategies reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, alter the characteristics of clouds, and influence the downward transport of heat from the Earth. But these methods will not have a huge impact on sea level rise, because ocean levels are remarkably slow to respond to changes in Earth’s temperature. That’s why alternative approaches are needed.
For example, geo-engineering for sea level rise is ineffective, because it doesn’t address the main cause of rising sea levels – ocean-driven melting. Ocean-driven melting is the fastest, most unpredictable type of melting, and is the likely source of the most severe sea-level rise in the 21st century. This is why geo-engineering has failed before. Moreover, geo-engineering solutions require little international coordination.
The effects of geo-engineering on sea level rise depend on the kind of model used. Statistical models are largely insensitive to the kind of sea-level model, but the balance of the models should be similar. These statistical models use different parameters to measure the temperature of the Earth, such as solar radiation, atmospheric CO2, and surface temperature. Other statistical models use confidence levels and historical climate data to compare predictions. In the long run, the results of these studies indicate that a 0.6 degree Celsius decrease in global temperature would stop sea level rise.
Other approaches include adding aerosols to the atmosphere or making the earth’s surface reflect sunlight. The most well-developed and researched of these methods is ocean fertilization, which would help increase the growth of phytoplankton, which performs photosynthesis to convert CO2 into oxygen. Phytoplankton contribute to around 50% of the world’s photosynthesis. Adding aerosols to the atmosphere will slow down or reverse global warming, while air bubbles, like those used in the Philippines, would boost ocean levels.
While geoengineering has a few obvious benefits, it is also extremely controversial and risky. Its use has many side effects, including extreme weather, agricultural disruption, and the depletion of the ozone layer. Besides the potential negative impacts, geoengineering has become a highly politicized issue, with debates in the United Nations over whether to use it or not.
Impact of climate change on coastal communities
Coastal communities face many challenges as a result of climate change, including extreme weather events. Rising sea levels, increased coastal erosion, and reduced rainfall are just a few of the problems facing these communities. These challenges can also exacerbate the socioeconomic problems of coastal communities, which are often low-income, geographically isolated, and lacking adequate public services. The impacts of climate change are also likely to affect the quality of basic goods and services.
As sea-level rise and ocean acidification increase, the water cycle may change. This could have serious consequences for coastal communities. Changes in ocean acidity will cause flooding and other coastal disasters. Meanwhile, changes in ocean temperatures will also affect the health of coastal communities. A two-degree Celsius increase in temperature could turn much of northern Alaska into unfrozen land. A significant increase in sea-level will also lead to an increase in coastal flooding and storm surge, which will have devastating impacts for communities.
While heatwaves and droughts will affect coastal communities, they will be worsened by the impacts of climate change. Increased flooding will affect coastal housing and infrastructure. Even worse, in some areas, a 50-cm rise in sea-level will increase the frequency of inundations, making them happen just once a year. The cost to replace residential buildings at risk of flooding is estimated at $63 billion. Moreover, the threat of sea-level rise also threatens key industries such as tourism and fishing.
A report titled National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States. More than 300 scientists conducted research on the subject, guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee. The report was carefully reviewed by the public, federal agencies, and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences. A report detailing the effects of climate change on coastal communities is a critical step in planning for climate change adaptation. It will help local governments prepare for the inevitable changes brought about by global warming.
The impact of sea-level rise is particularly severe for Asian cities. Nearly four out of every five people who will be impacted by sea-level rise by 2050 will be in East or South East Asia. In the US, cities are similarly at risk. Ninety US coastal cities are already experiencing chronic flooding and this is expected to double by 2030. In Europe, three-quarters of all cities will be affected by rising sea levels.