As many of you are no doubt aware, a report has just come out about the rate of sea level rise. The news is not good.
A new report provides an alarming forecast for the US: Sea level will rise as much in the next 30 years as it did in the past 100 — increasing the frequency of high-tide flooding, pushing storm surge to the extreme and inundating vulnerable coastal infrastructure with saltwater.
The interagency report, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows how scientists are increasingly confident that US coasts will see another 10 to 12 inches of sea level rise by 2050.
As the article says, the implications of this are enormous. Beyond the eventual inundation of low-lying coastal areas, sea level starts affecting us through the intrusion of salt into rivers and groundwater, and through higher storm surges. It’s also worth noting that in areas like Florida, the groundwater seepage can also represent a decrease in stability, which could lead to grim outcomes for housing and other infrastructure. I’ve delayed this post, simply because the whole thing is draining. I’ve been actively trying to get people to treat climate change like a crisis for about a decade. A lot more people have been doing it for a lot longer and/or a lot harder, and yet here we are. Right where we didn’t want to be. In some ways, I don’t have a lot to say about this. We knew this was coming. We knew what had to be done to stop or slow it. What we didn’t have was a global society capable of accepting reality and changing as needed.
Now that adaptability is going to be necessary for survival, because prevention didn’t happen, and we’re not going to be able to reverse course in any of our lifetimes, without technological and social change beyond anything we have reason to expect. So as I always say, organize. Practice pro-social prepping. If you’re in a low-lying coastal area, consider moving if you can afford to. And, as always, remember that as destructive as this rapid sea level rise will be, it’s just one aspect of what’s happening to our climate. It’s going to be a lot to deal with. For many folks it already is a lot to deal with. That means we also need to be proactive about our own mental health, and the mental health of those around us. Leaving aside the fact that higher temperatures literally mean hotter tempers, we have every reason to believe that things are going to keep getting worse, at least in some ways.
It should shock nobody that I appreciate Beau’s take on this:
To take a break from the doom and gloom, I wanted to address one thing mentioned in the video – sea level rise is not even around the globe. There are a variety of reasons for this. The first thing to remember is that the planet itself is not an even “globe”. It’s an “oblate spheroid”, which means it’s closer to a sphere that was slightly squished from its top and bottom. The next thing to remember is that gravity isn’t a one-way affair, even on a planet. The vast majority of the gravitational force is “down” towards the center of the Earth, but things like mountains also exert a gravitational pull. It’s very weak compared to a planet, but the inconceivably huge pile of water molecules we call “ocean” settles itself out, roughly, according to the various forces exerted upon it. That means that the ocean actually gets further from the center of the planet, and closer to space, as it gets closer to places like continents. The unevenness is spread out over such great distances that we don’t notice it as we interact with the water, but it’s there. Further, oceanic currents cause water to “pile up” against continents. Changes in sea level can also be caused by land sinking, as is happening in various places around the world.
I’ve shared it before, but this video from Minute Physics is a great primer on the subject of sea level:
Maybe I’m overly pessimistic, but I don’t get the feeling that any country is actually prepared for sea level rise, though some are closer than others. As I said earlier, I think we’re in for extremely stressful times ahead, and it’s going to feel like new hits keep coming from every direction. That’s going to be amplified by a media environment that profits far more from sensationalism than from honest reporting.
I also want to end on a less gloomy note. As it stands, things are likely to keep getting worse, but that’s not some unavoidable destiny. There are a myriad of things we can do to make life better for everyone (except maybe our current ruling class), even as the heat and waters rise. Take care of yourselves, take care of each other, and continue to fight as you’re able. I really do believe that it’s possible to turn this horror story into something more uplifting.
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