Sea level rise is unavoidable, on average sea levels are rising 3mm per year. With the hazardous impacts on health and ecosystems becoming increasingly devastating, this is a growing concern. The rise in sea levels is predicted to accelerate over the next century, intensifying natural disasters and detrimental impacts. Disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 demonstrate the frightening destruction natural hazards can have. In addition to the large-scale catastrophes, flooding and intense storms are increasing at alarming rates, impacting over 2.8 billion people in the past 30 years and sadly claiming over 200 000 lives.
So why is the sea level rising?
Several factors in combination are causing sea level rises. Increases in the temperature of oceans are resulting in a decrease in density, causing thermal expansion, essentially meaning the ocean is taking up more space. In addition to this, consistent increased temperatures due to global warming are melting glaciers and ice caps causing rise in sea levels. Studies suggest there is acceleration in the transportation of water mass into the ocean from the vast ice sheets covering the majority of Greenland and Antarctica.
What does this mean for our world?
There is substantial infrastructure and urbanization within coastal regions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the amount of people living near the coast could grow to around 5.2 billion by 2080. Increased sea levels will significantly change the coastline and impact the coastal populations, with increased inundation risks during storms being disastrous both environmentally and economically. The below table demonstrates some of the potential health impacts of local sea level rise.
The vulnerability of the population also strongly correlates with the preparedness and socioeconomic status of the region. For instance, only 1% of the world’s cyclones occur in Bangladesh yet because of the high socioeconomic vulnerability of Bangladesh, it is particularly susceptible and experiences 50% of the deaths from cyclones in the world. The increase in flooding causes not only deaths through drowning and physical injuries but also the transmission of bacteria, viruses and toxins. As extreme flooding and storms escalate further, millions of people will be forced to move and supplies such as energy, water and health services will be put at risk.
To save individuals from devastating futures, adaptation is essential. For vulnerable populations, relocation may be necessary. Susceptible nations such as Bangladesh and Samoa are already establishing climate change refugees and regions such as the Malidives and Guyana may be required to do the same. Ignoring the impending demand for adaptation and relocation of people and infrastructure may bring about devastating results. The world needs to come together and urgently prevent climate change developing further. We need to stop greenhouse gases and work towards a sustainable future. The consequences of our actions today will impact the lives of our children and our children’s children. It is essential for us to understand how to adapt and adjust the challenges we inevitably face. Together we must fight for the one thing we all have in common, planet earth. Read how we can prevent climate change here.
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- Managing Ocean Environments in a Changing Climate
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Learn more about the consequences of sea level rises and health in Elsevier’s reference modules. Elsevier’s Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences provides over 4200 articles on the Earth and Environment all in one convenient, easy-to-use platform. All articles are written by expert contributors and are regularly updated ensuring users are getting the most reliable content at the highest quality. Read more about the Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences here.
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