By far, one of the most important impacts from our planet global warming in the coming decades is how much more will the sea-level rise. As the Earth’s temperature continues to rise and ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland continues to melt, ocean levels will keep rising, and the flooding of coastal cities will force large-scale relocations of humans around the world.
Global warming has a huge impact on the oceans, rivers, lakes and the entire planet. As water gets warmer, it expands. Moreover, as glaciers and ice sheets melt, they increase the amount of water in our oceans; this causes sea levels to go up around the world. This process is well underway: On average, global sea levels have risen 7.5 inches since 1900 after 2,000 years of relatively little change. And at this rate of the sea-level rise has continued to increase during recent decades.
Regions that have shown a rapid rise in sea level during the past two decades include not only the Atlantic but the western tropical Pacific and the United States northeastern Seaboard. The sea level along the U.S. Pacific coast has also increased more than the global average but less than along the Atlantic coast. This can be explained by the varying continental margins along both coasts; the Atlantic type continental margin is characterized by a wide, gently sloping continental shelf, while the Pacific type continental margin incorporates a narrow shelf and slope descending into a deep trench. Since low-sloping coastal regions, should retreat faster than higher-sloping regions, the Atlantic coast is more vulnerable to sea-level rise than the Pacific coast.
Why is it so difficulat to estimate how high sea levels will rise?
The maddening question here is how high will the levels of our oceans rise this century? Studies suggest that it could be anywhere from 2 to 6 feet, globally. Conversely, recent scientific evidence lean more towards the latter six feet, depending on how rapidly parts of the large ice sheets in West Antarctica collapse and melt. Worse, climate scientists probably will not be able to predict an exact number anytime soon, because getting a handle on ice-sheet dynamics is inherently very tricky.
This is by no mean a time for complacency. Coastal cities must start mounting defenses against considerable adversity and uncertainty. This picture, for instance, shows how different levels of the sea-level will rise and New York City eventually will be underwater.
Two climate scientists Michael Oppenheimer and Richard Alley explain in a new research paper in Science, that coastal areas must learn to master the art of adaptation — developing sea walls and other defense’s measures that can evolve over time — and be ready for a wide array of plausible outcomes. Meanwhile, scientists themselves need to get much better at conveying the imperative “deep uncertainties” around ice sheets and sea levels.
“The response cannot be to just wait until the science figures it out,” says Oppenheimer, a climate and geoscience expert at the University of Princeton. “Because it is unlikely we are going to get a clear answer anytime soon. And if policymakers sit around waiting for a definitive answer, they could find themselves too late to avoid disastrous outcomes.”
Recent research studies suggest that the ice sheets could lose mass much faster than previously thought. Evidence from the distant past, when the Earth was not as warm as it is today, suggests that sea levels could rise as much as 20 to 30 feet higher — which can only be explained by a very rapid collapse of ice sheets. Scientists increasingly see the rapid changes in Antarctica and Greenland, as ice sheets crumble and glaciers retreat far more rapidly than expected. Researchers have found that meltwater on the surface of the ice sheets can open crevasses that break apart ice shelves entirely, causing further destabilization and even faster ice flows in the ocean. We could see as much as 6 feet of the rise this century alone in high-emissions scenarios.
Another effect of global warming on the carbon cycle is ocean acidification. The ocean and the atmosphere constantly act to maintain a state of homeostasis (equilibrium), so a rise in atmospheric carbon naturally leads to a rise in oceanic carbon. When carbon is dissolved in water it forms hydrogen and bicarbonate ions, which in turn breaks down to hydrogen and carbonate ions. All these extra hydrogen ions increase the acidity of our oceans and make survival much harder for planktonic organisms that depend on calcium carbonate to form their shells. A decrease in the base of the food chain will, once again, be destructive to our ecosystems to which they belong. With fewer of these photosynthetic organisms present on the surface of our oceans, less carbon will be converted to oxygen, thereby allowing the greenhouse gasses to go unchecked.
The effects of ocean acidification can already be seen and have been increasing since the start of the industrial revolution, with pH levels of the ocean dropping by 0.1 since the pre-industrial times. An effect called coral bleaching can be seen on the great barrier reef in Australia, where ocean acidification’s effects are well underway. Coral bleaching is when unicellular organisms that help make up the coral begin to die off and leave the coral giving it a white appearance. Although uncertain, another effect of climate change may be the growth, toxicity, and distribution of harmful algal blooms. These algal blooms have serious effects on not only marine ecosystems, killing sea animals and fish with their toxins, but also for humans as well. Some of these blooms deplete the oxygen around them to levels low enough to kill fish. It is important that these harmful effects be noted with higher levels of awareness, so that changes can be implemented before it’s too late.
Furthermore, it does not only stop at Global warming. We also have “Plastic Paradise” an eye-opening and horrific documentary, of the impact, we so-called human beings are inflicting on the ecosystem causing so much destruction well underway. Thousands of miles away from civilization, Midway Atoll in the Pacific ocean. And yet it is becoming ground zero for The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, syphoning plastics from three distant continents. In this independent documentary film, journalist/filmmaker Angela Sun travels on a personal journey of discovery to uncover this most awful phenomenon. Along the way, she meets scientists, researchers, eco-conscious green activists, and volunteers who shed light on the effects of our ravenous plastic mass consumption and agents of mass destruction and learned the problem is far more insidious than we could have ever imagined. This plastic is not found only in the Pacific but Altantic ocean as well as our rivers and lakes, in fact; it is found everywhere.
Plastic is not only found in the ocean and fish but also wildlife.
What is even more alarming than the destruction of our environment are the animals that live in it, is the quiet price human are paying for our rabid disposable consumption? Animals being entangled, with bellies filled with plastic, be indicators of a future for human beings? Plastic is now found inside the blood of humans disrupting the endocrine system and a known cause of some cancers. Plastic mimicking estrogen causing in fish a condition called the “gender bender” (not male nor female = androgynous), where male fish can no longer fertilize fish eggs and with us already over fishing our oceans, we could potentially find ourselves to be left without any fish in 10 years henceforth according to some scientists and research studies.
Did you know that less than 5% of all plastic manufactured throughout the world is actually recycled? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2008, 93% of all plastic in the USA that could have been recycled was thrown away. And those bottles with the redemption value? 62% were never recycled. Even if it does get recycled, most of it get “down-cycled” and sent to developing countries like China, to create cheaper byproducts. Basically, a single-use disposable plastic like a water bottle never returns as a water bottle once again.
Here are few simple steps WE CAN ALL TAKE as consumers and humans, who share this beautiful environment, which is becoming increasingly unsightly:
- Refuse the straws.
- Bring your own mug.
- Use a reusable stainless steel water bottle.
- Bring your own bag to the market or store, skip the disposable shopping bags that have been banned in several cities including Washington D.C. and San Francisco.
- Choose cardboard over plastic bags.
- Avoid consumer products with “polypropylene” or “polyethylene” – you’d be amazed at how many facial scrubs contain plastic. These tiny microbeads are causing big environmental problems.
- Switch from disposable razors to ones that let you replace the blade.
- Use cloth diapers, not disposable ones.
- Shop local. Avoid using bagged produce.
- Buy detergent that comes in cardboard boxes instead of plastic containers.
- Purchase condiments in glass jars not squeeze bottles.
- Get rid of electronics (such as televisions, fax machines, keyboards, etc.) in a responsible manner.
- Burn candles instead of buying plastic air fresheners.
Is this too much to ask?