Filed under: Climate Change
My grandfather used to have a favorite saying, he’d crack out when someone said they would see him later. He’d reply, “That I will, God willing and the creek don’t rise…”
See, he’d had his own experience with rising water. The Oklahoma government bought out his land, and many others to create a dam and recreational lake when my father was just a boy. Their home is now under dozens of feet of water and while I have happy memories of playing on that lake, i would bet that while he lived, my grandfather always saw that lake with a different set of eyes.
Will we view the rising sea levels with a similar view?
When the Miami shoreline is miles inland and passing ships stare at the remains of once glittering skyscrapers sticking up out of the water, like the waterlogged stumps I saw there on that lake, will the people whose own grandparents lived in those abandoned condos wonder too?
Dmitry Orlov and Keith Farnish have a very informative post over on ClubOrlov, the first in a three part series, where they take a look at the research concerning the rising sea levels and how they may be terribly under estimating how high the waters will rise in the coming decades.
You can read it here: “The Oceans Are Coming”
And so there we have it. A few degrees warmer, a few metres higher, and a couple of decades later, and there we will be, floating about, holding on to other things that float, perching in tree limbs and on rooftops, and hoping to be rescued. We know where we are going to end up eventually: at least 20 metres (65 feet) higher. The one thing we still do not know is how long it will take for us to get there.
We could keep waiting for the scientific community to settle on a consensus forecast, but this may take so long that it will have to be delivered through a snorkel. However, we can already observe that the doubling period of scientific climate forecasts is uncomfortably short, and, to provide for a margin of safety, we should at least double the latest estimates. If the latest forecast is for 2 metres this century, let us assume that we will see at least 4, and plan accordingly.
But do the exact forecasts even matter? We already know enough to say that there is a high probability that ocean levels will rise, significantly, within the lifetimes of most of the people alive today, disrupting the patterns of daily life for much of the world’s population, which tends to be clustered along the coastlines and the navigable waterways. We also know that ocean levels will continue to rise far into the future, until they are 20 to 36 metres higher than they are today. We know that continuous coastal erosion and salt water inundation, coastal flooding and displacement of coastal populations, which number in the billions, toward higher ground, will be normal and expected. We also know that there is a high chance these changes will occur based on present carbon dioxide levels, regardless of what is being currently proposed by the governments of the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
However, what we do not know is perhaps most important of all if you are in the middle of all this. We have not considered what ways of inhabiting the changing coastal landscape will remain viable. How will we have to adapt if any of us are to avoid being swept up in a continuous, endless surge of refugees feeling for higher ground, abandoning all they own and all they know? These are the questions that the next two parts of this series of articles will examine.
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