Thursday, August 27, 2015

The tides are coming in ... dangerously so

Due to global warming, the oceans are rising and the pace of that increase seems to be accelerating. This comes from a report by Quartz:
New satellite research from NASA shows that not only are global sea levels rising quickly, but they could rise even more drastically than previous reports estimated. ... “It’s pretty certain we are locked into at least 3 feet of sea level rise, and probably more,” said Steve Nerem, head of NASA’s Sea Level Change Team. “But we don’t know whether it will happen within a century or somewhat longer.” Sea levels are rising for three main reasons: The melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the melting of mountain glaciers, and the expansion of oceans as they absorb heat and become warmer. All three causes can be directly attributed to global warming.

Although I am convinced that the NASA scientists have this right, there is a problem with the caveat built into their conclusion. Just when will this sea level rise take place? As Mr. Nerem notes, it could be a century or it could be longer. That is a pretty large fudge factor, and it makes it harder to motivate action--or even push people living in low-lying areas from building upward--until it is likely too late.

What I expect will happen in 75 or 100 or 150 years is that there will be several catastrophic events--massive coastal floods that destroy thousands of low-lying structures and ruin all of the roads, bridges and other coastal infrastructure. After the catastrophes, many property owners in those places will rebuild on stilts, maybe 10, 15 or 20 feet off the ground, and they will get around on sea craft. At the same time, millions or maybe even billions of others will relocate back several miles to the new, hopefully safe coastline.

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