United States coastal cities and towns are experiencing more coastal flooding than ever this season, a consequence of human influenced climate change. Scientists have warned of this problem growing much worse in the coming decades unless some serious changes are made.
According to various scientists, emissions in the atmosphere caused by the burning of fossil fuels, have caused the fastest rise in ocean levels since at least the dawn of Rome. Without our interference the report suspects that ocean levels would be rising much slower, or even falling.
Tidal flooding is becoming increasingly routine in places such as Miami Beach, Charleston, South Carolina, and Norfolk, Virginia. The floods often only produce one or two feet of saltwater, but have serious consequences. Grass and trees are killed, neighborhood streets are blocked, storm drains are clogged and freshwater supplies are polluted.
Worse still, entire island communities have been left stranded, as the roads leading to them from the mainland are submerged entirely underwater.
The new research suggests that these events are only warning signs compared to what’s to come.
“I think we need a new way to think about most coastal flooding,” said Benjamin H. Strauss, primary author of one of the studies released on Monday. “It’s not the tide. It’s not the wind. It’s us. That’s true for most of the coastal floods we now experience.”
In another study scientists reconstructed sea levels over time, confirming that this is likely the fastest rise in ocean levels at any point in the last 28 centuries, with a sharp increase over the last century, largely due to emissions and almost certainly caused by humans.
They forecasted that if emissions were continually produced at this high rate over the next few decades, the ocean could rise by as much as three to four feet by the next century. The situation could get so bad that many coastal communities will need to be completely abandoned.
These studies contribute to the already overwhelming amount of evidence of man-made climate change.
The climate in which humanity has prospered for the last few millennia, is being quickly and radically altered due to our actions, and yet there is little political will to deal with this issue.
“I think we can definitely be confident that sea-level rise going to continue to accelerate if there’s further warming, which inevitably there will be,” said Stefan Rahmstorf, professor of ocean physics at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and author of one of the recent studies.
An additional report used the new findings to calculate that around 75 per cent of the flooding now plaguing the East Coast are direct results of ocean level increases caused by human emissions. The report concludes the same is likely true of any coastal community in the world that has seen an increase of saltwater flooding.
Rising ocean levels also contribute in a limited degree to the storm surges we see along side hurricanes such as Katrina or Sandy.