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Sea Level Rise for the United States: Direct and Indirect Consequences by City Tech Blogger Daniel Rivera

The threat from sea level rise is exponential and could cause a humanitarian crisis. Coastal cities in the United States must be prepared to counter or minimize this threat. Since sea level rise can occur anytime, coastal areas should protect the shore from flooding, and also provide important habitat for many types of plants and animals.

Sea level rise in the US is problematic, and the evidence that cautions of a coming crisis is alarming. In a report to Congress, Folger and Carter pointed out that the United States has experienced an annual sea level rise of at least 0.7 inches.  There is also evidence that the annual rate of sea-level rise increased to 0.13 inches from 1992 to 2010 (Folger and Carter 2).  Future trends have not been firmly established, but there is no reason to expect that sea-level rise will not continue at a consistently rapid pace. What is certain is that if the current trend continues as anticipated, the US can expect exceptional damages, especially in its coastal areas (Folger and Carter 15). For examples, some damages are caused by flooding, erosion, land declination, saltwater polluting freshwater supplies, and severe changes in the coastal and marine ecosystems (Folger and Carter 2).

These issues in coastal states can led to localized sea level. For instance, States like Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii and other coastal states are already confronting rising sea levels during storms, which threaten residents, water supplies, assets and the economy (Folger and Carter 2). A study revealed that those coastal regions in the Northern US from Virginia to Maine are unsafe in the event sea levels continue to rise (Horton, Thieler, and Coffel 1).  Horton et al. also warn that areas more sensitive to sea level rise and resulting land inundation are cities in the Northern region. In other words, the US can expect to see coastal destruction in the Northern part of the United States due to sea level rise. The cities are especially vulnerable due to “intense development and coastal engineering” (Horton et al. 1) This development indicates that the region’s coastlines show significant sensitivity to sea level rise and alternate in their ability to respond dynamically to that sea level rise. Therefore, the threat of sea level rise is worsened by activities carried out by industries in the area.  Dynamic consequences are expected on beaches, cliffs, barrier islands/keys, and in the wetlands (Horton et al. 1.)

In addition to the necessities of the coastal areas, there are other problems related to marine life that are impacted by sea level rise. The increase in sea level threatens to change ecosystems due to improvements and terrible floods and storm floods (National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science 1).  The Marine Conservation Institute informs that to understand the impact of sea-level rise on marine ecosystems it is necessary to know what is causing the sea-level rise. Sea level rise is attached to climate change, and this means that the sea is accumulating melted glaciers and “volumetric expansion” from increased temperatures (Marine Conservation Institute & PP. 2). Therefore, this report concluded that the sea level rise is due to global warming, which is causing polar melting. There are concerns about land receding in the northern United States.

Direct consequences of sea level rise in the United States are suspected in low-level ecosystems, which are already in danger due to development along the coastlines and the introduction of “heavy nutrient loads” (Marine Conservation Institute & PP. 4). These low-level ecosystems include kelp beds, sea grass, coral reefs, “rocky intertidal zones and estuarine communities” (Marine Conservation Institute & PP. 4). The ecosystem is already threatened and has limited the ability to recover from changes in the environment (Marine Conservation Institute & PP. 4). This change implies that this particular ecosystem is already suffering the results of pollution and will struggle to accommodate to and recover from sea level rise.

There is no getting around the direct threat of sea level rise for the coastal areas with large populations (Marine Conservation Institute & PP. 6). The coastal areas and their ecosystems help the reduction of the energy joined with waves that cover beaches. The loss of beaches harms the people who live nearby and even tourists who visit beaches. According to Gunther,  “80% of all tourism takes place in coastal areas, with beaches and coral reefs amongst the most popular destinations.” This shows that sea level rise can threaten the well being of people living or visiting the shoreline. Rising waters can also threaten sea shore stores who could see their profits decrease. (Gunther 1.)

A study shows the potential damages to coastal communities due to sea level rise. The study took place in York, Maine, along the coastline of York County, which is described as one of the “areas most vulnerable to climate change” (Abate 485).  The  nine towns in York County  are Kittery, Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunk, York, Old Orchard Beach, Saco, Kennebunkport and Biddeford (Abate, 485). These cities, therefore, have a lot to lose due to higher sea-level rises and the threat of storm surges where resulting damages will affect most businesses that may be forced to shut down for repairs due to a loss of electricity and water. Also, the threat to communities due to sea-level rise is evidenced by the status of New Hampshire as well. For example, according to Abate, New Hampshire have the nation’s smallest coastlines with only 131 “tidal shoreline miles” (Abate 386).

Sea-level rise is a matter of critical concern  globally.  The US stands to be impacted directly due to localized sea level rising. The coastal areas that virtually surround the US, and inland wetlands, rivers, and lakes all expose the US to significant damages to the ecosystem, the economy and the environment with dire consequences for food and other vital supplies.  Flood and storm surge damages can create a humanitarian crisis. The serious threat associated with sea level rise and its increasing rapid pace of happening in the US puts America under pressure to safeguard against the expected harmful consequences. Crises are likely if sea level rise is overlooked.


Work Cited

Abate, Randall. Climate Change Impacts on Ocean and Coastal Law. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44632.pdf

Gunther, Michel. “Marine Problems: Tourism & Coastal Development.” WWF,        wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/tourism/

Horton, Radley; Thieler, Robert and Coffel, Ethan. Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Ecosystems. http://necsc.umass.edu/projects/impacts-sea-level-rise-ecosystems Accessed 7 November 2017.

World Bank. Climate Changes and Impact on Coastal Countries: Risk of Sea-Level Rise: High Stakes for Developing Countries. Research at the World Bank, 2016. http://econ.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTDEC/EXTRESEARCH/0,,contentMDK:21215328~pagePK:64165401~piPK:64165026~theSitePK:469382,00.html




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