Did we cause global warming with the emission of greenhouse gasses? Some scientists say yes; others say no.
Still other experts believe that our lack of environmental care through the years combined with planetary factors beyond our control seem to have teamed up to cause this dilemma.
Nothing in this world is ever strictly due to one thing. Thus, the latter is probably closest to the truth.
Regardless, global warming is as real as real gets. In fact, scientists are now going as far as to formulate time lines in regard to the literal deterioration of our planet. Because of this and the overall media coverage spoken of earlier, there are few consequences of the global warming dilemma that the general masses are not aware of.
Certainly society is aware of the fact that sea levels will rise.
In fact, CNN reports Arctic sea ice is melting at a rate far quicker than predicted by climate change computer models and could disappear completely before the middle of the century, scientists have warned.
The study, published in the latest edition of the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that the actual rate at which summer sea ice had shrunk per decade during the past 50 years was more than three times faster than an average of 18 of the most highly-regarded climate simulations.
In addition to rising sea levels, four effects are predicted to occur on our world, that most don't realize. These are:
However, very little has been discussed concerning salinity (in other words, salt). Simply put, if the ocean rises it will increase the salinities of estuaries (the lower course of a river where its currents are met by tides) and aquifers (underground beds or layers of earth, gravel, or porous stone that yield water). When this happens, the extra salt will impair water supplies and reservoirs as nearly all coastal water supplies are significantly impacted by the ocean to begin with.
Said another way, New York, Philadelphia, and California get a lot of their water from upstream rivers. If salt were to venture further upstream it would in essence destroy much of their water supplies. Not to mention that salinity increases in such waters when the heat is high.
Landlocked bodies of water are threatened because of salinity as well - Okay, we'll get off the salt kick in a moment. However, this one was important enough to look at from another vantage. In short, when sea levels rise it will make some agriculture along the coast impossible.
Simply put, the land will become too saline for cultivation.
The seaward boundary for farming or cultivation- which is found where the saltwater from the ground and surface waters penetrates inland to the point that cultivation becomes impossible- would obviously penetrate farther inland under such a scenario.
Thus, farming would also be impacted.
Waves would increase in size - If you're a surfer, this one sounds cool. However, surfers like beaches, and unfortunately the sheer power of these larger waves would serve to erode the coastline even further than the already rising sea levels would.
Of all countries, the United States will find itself most impacted by the rising sea levels - According to the Environmental Protection Agency the United States will be the most negatively impacted of all countries on Earth by the rising sea levels compelled through global warming. Specifically, the U.S.'s Atlantic Coast will suffer the greatest degree of ecosystem challenges through the possible death of numerous species and plant life along its fragile coastal plain.
So, here are three ideas on how to combat these sea level issues through adaptation.
1. Make a wall - Coastal cities and areas will need protection. One obvious way to attempt this is through walling them off with bulkheads, dikes, seawalls, and pumping systems. Dikes and pumping systems are already being used in areas such as New Orleans that are well below sea level. In fact, all of these are being used effectively in other parts of the country..
Though these manmade structures will help save property and stop flooding, they may not serve to protect shorelines aesthetically; nor will they necessarily protect ecosystems (marshes, etc.) from harm.
2. Elevate the land - Using fill to elevate beaches/ the area around bodies of water has been successful in other parts of the country. The nice thing about this method of dealing with rising sea levels is that it will allow beaches to keep much of their aesthetic beauty and recreational usefulness.
This method will be an especially prudent one to use in areas where the shoreline is important to the economy, as is the case with the Caribbean islands, Hawaii, and the like.
But again, remember that even if the beaches stay intact, the surfing could be rough due to the increased size of waves. So practice with caution all of you surfer dudes!
3. Learn how to effectively turn saltwater into drinking water - Okay, this is the one that could solve the problem of negatively impacted reservoirs and lessened rain due in part to rising sea levels. First, it is important to understand that desalination (the process of taking the salt out of ocean water, usually for the purpose of drinking it) is something that we can already do. For instance, desalination has been occurring on ships and other arid regions of the world for some time now. However, it is time consuming and expensive (it costs about $1,000 per acre foot to desalinate ocean water as opposed to $200 per acre foot to utilize normal drinking water). Still, the prices are falling.
In sum, rising sea levels will cause more problems than just flooding. One particularly troubling aspect of sea level increases is the amount of salt that will be let loose on our world. However, there are things that can be done about all of this.
But before we can be effective in dealing with sea level increases, we must admit to ourselves as a society that global warming is a permanent problem (that can only be mitigated by lessening emissions, not solved entirely). Only then will we begin to turn our focus toward adaptation.
And come close to winning the battle.