According to a study released recently, more than 13 million American lives could be in serious danger by the end of this century, thanks to rising sea levels due to climate change. Worst-case scenarios should be considered, and if global warming lifts water levels in the ocean by 1.8 metres (six feet), 13.1 million people living in the coastal areas in the United States would become vulnerable to floods and storm surges, the study derived. The numbers are truly alarming. In Florida itself, some six million residents could be affected and a million each in California and Louisiana.
The current scenario is so bad that even if the sea levels rise by only half the expected amount, it puts, at least, four million American lives in danger. People would have to eventually move to higher grounds for safety. Previously, the number of lives disrupted due to global warming in the U.S had not been taken into account, according to the researchers.
Mathew Hauer, the lead author of the study and a doctoral student at the University of Georgia said, “This research merges population forecasts with sea level rise.”
“The impact projections are up to three times larger than current estimates, which significantly underestimate the effect of sea level rise in the United States,” he said in a statement.
Going on about the intensity of the situation Hauer said, “The longer we wait to implement adaptation measures, the more expensive they become.” All told, there are 31 counties where more than 100,000 residents would be hit hard by a two-metre jump in sea levels, according to the new calculations. In three of them – including Monroe County, home to the Florida Keys – 80 per cent of the population would be adversely affected.
On a global scale, an increase of one-to-two metres in sea levels would have a similar or even more devastating impact on hundreds of millions of people, especially in poorer countries ill-equipped to cope, previous research had shown. One study estimated that – even under optimistic scenarios that assume swift and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions – land currently occupied by some 200 million people would be submerged, though over a longer time period. Climate change has unleashed three main drivers of rising seas. One is thermal expansion – water takes up more space as it warms. Another is runoff from melting glaciers, which will largely disappear by the end of the century, according to some estimates.
The real wild card, however, are Earth’s two most vulnerable ice sheets, continent-sized blocks of frozen water that could eventually lift oceans by 13 metres or more. Scientists are concerned that if global warming continues unabated, the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets may cross a point of no return beyond which they will melt – over a period of hundreds of years, or longer – no matter what efforts are made to halt global warming.
With inputs from Agence France-Presse.
Article By : Rishabh Banerji