Coastal erosion is the result of rising seas

While waiting in the dentist’s office, I picked up a well-worn copy of National Geographic from September and read a compelling account of the impact global warming is having on the ocean.

In the last century we have raised global temperatures 1 degree Fahrenheit by burning fossil fuels, and raised sea levels 8 inches. Even if we quit burning such fuels tomorrow, the greenhouse gas emissions already produced by such burning would continue to warm the planet for centuries.

Sea level rise is caused by melting ice and the expansion of water that warming produces. Six years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the premiere research organization on this subject – forecast a continuing sea level rise of 23 inches by the end of this century. But the estimates have proved too conservative, and it is now widely thought that 2100 will bring 6 feet of sea level rise.

If the massive Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica should come unmoored, a real possibility, seas would rise 10 feet by 2100. That is the height of the storm surge that Hurricane Sandy pounded New York with.

It has been 3 million years since the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere was as high as it is today. Sea levels then were 65 feet higher.

It would take centuries to reach that level. Yet we are already experiencing rising seas. The result is coastal erosion.

Byron W. Baker