Nel's New Day

December 18, 2014

Climate Change, Sea Rise Real

Filed under: Environment — trp2011 @ 9:02 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The year’s biggest lie: according to PolitiFact, “climate change is a hoax” was the favored choice. Almost 32 percent of the poll respondents chose this as a lie over nine other options. Scientists overwhelmingly support the position that people are causing the climate change. In contrast, chief climate denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) will chair his chamber’s Environment and Public Works Committee, and 17 of 22 GOP members of the House Science, Space, and Technology deny any climate change or any human cause for the problem.

Extreme heat in the winter when the polar vortex dipped far south into the United States has driven the warming in the Arctic, twice as fast as in lower latitudes. The average temperature for last year ran 1.8 degrees above the 1981-2010 average. Alaska saw 18 degrees above normal, and Greenland’s temperature were 16 degrees over normal last January. Warm temperatures are driving the above-average melt to Greenland’s ice sheet and the disappearance of a snow cover almost a month earlier than normal. The problem for the rest of the world is the serious loss of sea ice, possibly contributing to a wavier jet stream that stalls weather patterns.

Climate projections for 50 years in the future seem so impossible that many people ignore them. Looking 50 years in the past, however, consider the premier beach resort, Ocean City (VA), within “pleasant driving distance” of Washington and Baltimore, according to the glossy sales brochure. Richard F. Hall sold 2000 lots on Cedar Island starting in the 1950s, and his granddaughter and her developer husband sold more land in the 1980s. People built houses and then moved them away from the encroaching sea if they could afford to do so. Scientists warned about the failure of building at that location; state regulators allowed the development although they knew it was doomed for disaster.

cedar-island-houseNow the last house on Cedar Island has been taken by the ocean.

cedar-island-house-2On another barrier island, Miami Beach has spent millions to replenish sand on its beaches. Scientists believe that the seas will rise three or more feet by the end of the century—85 years from now. And people keep buying and building.

At the other end of the United States, the people of Shishmaref, a village of 563 people just 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle, have watched the eroding shores.  The town, originally with wide beaches, got a post office in 1901 and incorporated in 1969. Alaska’s average temperatures have warmed 3.4 degrees during the past half century, and the thawing permafrost is washing away. Fall and early winter storms also eat away at the area because the surrounding sea freezes for much less of the year than in the past. The island where the village is located loses up to 22.6 feet in one year with big storms and an annual of between 2.7 and 8.9 feet.

alaska house disappearsFor many people in the United States, the sea rise is of no concern. Yet 50 percent of the nation’s coastline is at high or very high risk of impacts from sea level rise, and 16.4 million people live in the coastal flood plain. More than half of the area covered by 40 large cities (population over 50,000) is less than 10 feet above the high tide line. Florida has the biggest problem because 27 of these cities are located in that state with 85 percent in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Even worse, each one sits on bedrock filled with holes, leaving them without any method of defense from the rising ocean.

So much ice in Greenland and Antarctica is melting that these two regions are shrinking and changing the pull of gravity. Water levels may fall in those locations while the gravitational pull contributes to the rising waters along the U.S. coastlines. As high-latitude ice melts in the higher latitudes, the water slopes more towards the equator.

Another contributing factor is the expansion of the ocean because of increased warming. People have argued that the rate of sea level is slowing, possibly because the heat is getting sucked up by the colder parts of the ocean. The slowing, however, won’t last. The last time that the planet warmed at this rate, about 120,000 years ago, sea levels were 15 to 30 feet higher than now.

A recent study shows that the worst-case scenario for sea level rise is 6 feet by 2100, but that study is based from expert opinion in 2012. Things have gotten much worse almost three years later as scientists have discovered that the Greenland ice sheet is far less stable than previously thought.

Everyone is affected by sea rise, even those who don’t live in affected areas. The damage was estimated to reach $2 trillion a year by 2100—and that study was two years ago. Cutting temperature increases in half could avoid losing almost $1.4 trillion of the total cost.

If the United States takes no action to slow down global warming, millions of people will face the same disaster during the next 50 years as residents in Ocean City and Shishmaref have endured. And many more millions will suffer from economic disaster.

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