Sea level rise results in flooding, everyone knows that much. But this goes way beyond only that, and to demonstrate it, here is a list of five additional, and equally important, consequences of lifting up that sea-level bench mark.
All scientific evidence points towards inevitable temperature increase, which results in accelerated polar glaciers melt. The first thing that happens after that is sea level rise, and therefore flooding of coastal areas.
It is often that people do not think much beyond this point, I assume because their immediate concerns are associated with protecting their coastal property and resources. But sea level rise will affect much more than the house basement, and although people will not see the impact immediately, slowly but surely the problems will become more apparent.
Here is a list of five consequences that will follow from sea level rise, which can potentially change the way we live entirely.
1. Posing threat on fresh water resources
Most of the world’s fresh water is underground. Springs are essential for sustaining life, and this is why these precious resources have to be kept clean, and away from any possible sources of contamination.
With sea level rising, however, salt water from the ocean slowly takes over the land and quietly steeps into the underground fresh water channels. Yes, engineers have been working on developing different desalination plants and techniques, but these are so incredibly expensive that it is impossible to implement them in all areas at risk.
2. Posing threat on food production
Securing food resources was identified by the UN’s IPCC as one of the most important and crucial tasks in front of governments for the coming decades. Climate change has already caused a lot of agricultural land to dry out and turn into a desert and this trend is just going to continue.
The problem is, however, that agricultural land, especially in the coastal zones, will be hit once more. Not only that the fresh water resources might, which we spoke about earlier and also used for irrigation, might be polluted, but also flooded areas with salt water from the sea would become unsuitable for farming.
3. Posing threat on world’s economy
Sea level rise affects pretty much every sector of the economy. It is so painfully obvious that major ports will be affected, new set of regulations will have to be put in place when it comes to issuing building permits for housing in coastal areas, and tourists might have to say good bye to what was once their favorite beach.
Local governments are already becoming desperate in their attempts to find a way to prevent a huge crash in their local economy. In some places, such as North Carolina, it goes as far as the government passing a law, with which they band policy makers from basing their decisions on sea-level rise. Go figure.
4. Posing threat on plant biodiversity
Moving a bit away from our direct personal loses, sea-level rise will affect plant biodiversity in coastal areas. Yes, salt marshes are in fact very rich in plant species areas, and even have CO2 absorbing properties, but the soil of such areas is completely different from areas with low salt concentrations.
Some plants might have time and be able to adapt to the new soil chemistry, but the more likely scenario is that many species will simply disappear. The biggest concern is the trees, the species that are considered to be our best bet in the fight with CO2 in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, high soil salinity will result in difficulties in pulling out water, and eventually the trees will loose the fight.
5. Posing threat on animal population
Last but not least, the diverse wildlife of coastal zones might soon become entirely different from the way we know it. The most vulnerable species, such as sea turtles, will be the first to be affected, as their nests will not be able to resist the pressure of incoming water, killing all their eggs. Needless to say, their sources of food might also slowly disappear, causing additional stress. Hopefully, adaptation to new conditions will happen faster than sea-level rise.
Does knowing all these make you leave the car behind tomorrow morning, and jump on the bike to go to work? I hope it does, because every molecule of CO2 that comes out of the car exhaust adds that little bit more to the atmosphere, resulting in that little bit higher temperature, and everyone knows what follows.
Image (c) Reuters