What You Can Do About Sea Level Rise

Author: Nathan Choi | Category: Environment | Date: 09-30-2020


As the coastline becomes shorter and shorter, many cities around the globe are at risk of serious flooding. The sea level is rising faster than ever before and the issue is starting to grab the awareness of many scientists. Although some communities are proactive in trying to defend themselves, many are still ignorant, keeping the city's infrastructure and residents at risk. With an issue affecting at a worldwide level, it may seem that the average citizen is powerless in protecting their communities. In fact, by reducing one’s carbon footprint, voting against certain practices by large corporations and governments, and persuading leaders to protect the environment, people can not only save their communities from the effects of sea level rise but also acknowledge the power they all have to change the world for the better. 

Sea level rise is an existing problem that needs to be addressed. According to satellite data from NASA, the sea level has increased 10 centimeters since 1993. Furthermore, by looking at the graph provided on the website, there is a strong positive association between the change in sea level and years since 1993. This means that the sea has been steadily rising over the years. 10 centimeters may not seem dangerous, but the water has already caused major catastrophe to many cities, primarily in the United States. Economics expert Kimberly Amadeo includes a study, stating, “...the number of coastal flood days in 27 U.S. locations has increased dramatically. They flooded 2.1 days a year between 1956 and 1960. That exploded to 11.8 days annually between 2006 and 2010” (Amadeo). It seems that the United States is starting to experience more and more issues with sea level rise. More often than ever, cities need to respond to the sharp increase in flooding. Amadeo explains, “From 2005 to 2017, sea level rises cost eight coastal states $14.1 billion” (Amadeo). Flooding has forced many states to spend a lot of their resources on repairing water damage. This raises a lot of problems with the citizens, as a huge portion of their taxes has been used to fund water damage repair. As you can see, sea level rise has already caused huge disruption to many places around the world and there is an urgent need for a solution. Fortunately, there are several ways anyone can combat sea level rise to protect their communities. 

The first way people can help is to reduce their carbon footprint. According to an article from Yale Global Online, “Researchers are crediting climate change for more than half of the rising sea levels during the past century and three-quarters of coastal flooding in the United States during the past decade” (“Study Reveals”). Science has been able to find the root cause of sea level rise: climate change. By those means, combating climate change will drastically reduce the rate of sea level rise. The carbon we emit into the atmosphere greatly influences our climate’s  temperature. Known as carbon footprint, the actions we do everyday have a carbon dioxide equivalent. For example, when we fly to another country, the carbon footprint is large because of the many carbon dioxide molecules released into the air to make our trip possible. By being mindful of the decision we make every day, we can strive to reduce our effect on climate change, which can lessen sea level rise. According to Andrew Freedman, a senior science writer for climatecentral.org, “Related research by Climate Central scientists shows that the emissions reductions would potentially benefit more than 2 million Americans by 2100, who might otherwise be living below sea level at that point” (Freedman). Reducing our carbon footprint is a highly crucial component of combating sea level rise. It might seem ineffective for one person to cut their carbon emissions, but with the entire country doing their part, the impact is exigent. Luckily, there are a couple more ways to reduce sea level rise; however, cutting carbon emissions is the most effective solution. 

In addition to cutting carbon emissions, people can use their democratic power to discourage bad practices. For instance, people can vote against the act of pumping out groundwater because it causes cities to sink. Known as land subsidence, it is when the ground begins to compress due to the lack of groundwater beneath the surface (“Land Subsidence”). In Tokyo, “[g]roundwater pumping...caused the land to sink around 4 meters over the course of the 20th century. The city now relies on vast flood defenses” (Sebesvari). Tokyo is not the only city that is affected; cities such as Venice, Houston, Miami, and Bangkok are at a greater risk. With the combination of sea level rise and land subsidence, any community is prone to flooding. With time, those places may become submerged underwater. However, bad practices are not limited to an excess of groundwater pumping. Any project that puts a community at a higher risk of sea level rise or strengthens the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere needs to be terminated. Therefore, people need to speak up and discourage these harmful decisions. Without the voice of the people, politicians and corporations will exploit the environment for monetary gain, leaving the world in a devastating state. 

Lastly, by simply speaking at public city council meetings and sending letters to powerful people, one can change their community for the better. In 2019, the Cupertino Youth Climate Action Team was able to pressure the Cupertino City council to release a strict reach code, banning the use of natural gases. In addition to intoxicating indoor air quality, natural gases released into the atmosphere bolsters the greenhouse effect, which is a huge factor in sea level rise. The team of high school students was able to influence important decisions made by the Cupertino city council. Not only does this show that anyone can prevent their cities from harming the environment, but also demonstrates the power people have in their communities. If we all made an effort to inform leaders of the necessity to mitigate sea level rise, our communities will be cleaner and less harmful to the world. 

At first, sea level rise may seem like a war only large corporations and governments fight in; however, citizens have lots of ways to protect their communities from sea level rise. People can try to reduce their carbon footprint, which will help slow the rate at which the glaciers melt. Additionally, they can discourage practices made by large corporations and governments that increase the rate at which the sea level rises. Lastly, people can influence the decisions made by the city council to make their communities safer for the environment. If everybody works together and follows these steps, the future may not look as horrible as predicted by scientists. In the end, not only will we keep the world above water, but realize the power we all have as an individual to keep our earth healthy for generations to come.


About: Nathan Choi



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