The effects of rising sea levels are already being felt around the world and the forecasts for the future are not very optimistic. Oceans are increasingly invading our coastal zones and forcing residents to migrate to inland areas to find alternate livelihoods. In this blog, I will be researching potential impacts of rising sea levels, studies that have been conducted, and historical context of the phenomena.
A recent study conducted by the researchers at the Ohio State University and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has concluded that in the near future, elevated sea level will force up to 200,000 people to migrate from Bangladesh coastal areas. Valerie Mueller, a senior research at IFPRI says “Many parts of Bangladesh are under severe threat of future sea-level submergence, but studies show the migratory response to flooding is likely to be minimal, as most farmers have already adapted their cultivation practices to cope with changes in the frequency and intensity of flooding in this deltaic region. However, our study shows increased soil salinity from rising seas will push nearly 140,000 coastal residents to migrate to another location within their district, and nearly 60,000 would move to alternate districts”. Countries like Bangladesh in particular, are very vulnerable to climate changes, and likely to lose most economically and unfortunately it is only one of the many countries facing the threat of rising sea levels.
Elevated sea levels carry risk factors to coastal habitats around the world, they produce erosions, floods, agricultural soil pollution, and leave fish, birds and several mammals without a home. An elevated sea level causes powerful winds and lots of rain, it releases severe thunderstorms and other big atmospheric phenomena that can be a real threat to places in its path. On other hand, the constant threat alone of sea level rise menaces hundreds of millions of people living in coastal communities. If sea levels continue to rise, just like the people of Bangladesh, residents of these coastal areas will be forced to abandon their houses and migrate to other areas, with the corresponding demographic problem. “Forced migrations” resulting from climate change are happening more often. Low-lying islands are under of direct threat of being completely swallowed by the oceans, leading to the disappearance of large land areas and even some countries.
What is the root cause for the rise in sea levels? Historically, the sea levels have always altered with changes to global temperature. When earth was dealing with Ice Age, its temperature was 5 degrees Celsius colder than todays and the sea level was more than 100 meters below the present level. With more than 13 studies on MSL (mean sea level) change over the last century, it has been concluded that MSL has been rising. It seems there are two essential mechanisms that contribute to sea level rise – one of them is thermal expansion which basically means an object is expanding and becomes larger due to a change in its temperature, so this applies to the ocean and second is a loss of land-based ice due to increased melting. “Global average sea level has risen since 1961 at an average rate of 1.8 [1.3 to 2.3] mm/yr and since 1993 at 3.1 [2.4 to 3.8] mm/yr, with contributions from thermal expansion, melting glaciers and ice caps, and the polar ice sheets.” (IPCC, 2007) University of California conducted another study which looked at details of ice and snow from the entire continent of Antarctica since 1979 and it has been determined that Antarctica ice melt has accelerated by 280% in the last 4 decades.
What can we do to prevent the seas from rising? At this point it’s very unlikely that anything can be done to reverse the climate, but I believe we can attempt to at least stall the process. We can reduce the current and future carbon/methane emissions which will hopefully prevent the problem from getting worse. We can also prepare overpopulated coastal regions for the massive migration of people from low-lying areas. Earth is a very large, complex structure that oftentimes goes through changes that are directly caused by our actions. With sea level rises, just as with anything else, we will either learn and adapt, or we will go extinct.
Sample, Drew “NEW STUDY: Sea Level Rise to Force 200,000 To Migrate from Bangladesh Coastal Areas” https://www.ifpri.org/news-release/new-study-sea-level-rise-force-200000-migrate-bangladesh-coastal-areas
Nunez, Christina “Sea Level Rise, Explained – Oceans are rising around the world, causing dangerous flooding. Why is this happening, and what can we do to stem the tide? “
Jones, Nicole “How Fast and How Far Will Sea Levels Rise?”