The day when sea levels rise enough to disperse entire populations could be closer than scientists originally thought. While we’re already seeing the potential effects in the Pacific Northwest, we may still be better off than others.
The NASA climatologist who originally introduced climate change to the public in the 1980s is warning that the mean sea levels may be rising quicker than predicted. In fact, it could be rising 10 times faster than the rate originally predicted, Rolling Stone reports.
Unless emissions are cut, the sea level could rise up to 10 feet by 2065, according to James Hansen. The “social disruption” and “economic consequences” of the increased sea levels might be enough to make the planet “ungovernable,” according to a warning by Hansen and a team of scientists.
With the current events tied to unusually hot weather in Seattle this summer, it’s hard to argue climate change isn’t happening. Rivers are at record-low levels, killing off fish and forcing the government to truck them to hatcheries. Cities in the Pacific Northwest, including Seattle and Tacoma, are issuing drought warnings as consumable water levels drop at a significant rate. To top things off, a rainforest in the Olympic National Park, which has not burned in our lifetimes, is burning, Rolling Stone points out.
The new study finds a two-degree rise in global temperature, which will bring sea-level rise to a catastrophic level, according to NASA climatologist Eric Rignot, cited by Rolling Stone.
Sea-level change could — and in some cases already is — having an impact on the Puget Sound region. Take Seattle’s Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods, for example. A recent study by a panel of experts found that during extremely high tides and heavy rainfall, storm drains are backing up and overflowing into streets. Though it’s only occurring about once per year now, the rate is expected to increase to once per month as sea levels rise.
The rate at which rising sea levels are expected to increasingly impact those neighborhoods is on par with that of the rest of the world. The panel found storm drains will be backing up once a month by 2050; the mean sea levels around the world could rise 10 feet by 2065.
Of course, climate change is also warming the Pacific Northwest, too. Scientists are finding unusually warm conditions in the Puget Sound this summer. The warm conditions are leading to more toxic algae blooms, shellfish closures and lower dissolved oxygen levels harming fish.
But the Pacific Northwest may be in a better position to tackle climate change than other populations. University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences Professor Cliff Mass has said the Northwest will be a “winner” in the battle of warming temperatures. Up here in the corner of the United States, according to Mass, temperatures will be somewhat constant for the next 20 to 30 years.
If Mass is correct, then all Seattleites need to worry about is the massive earthquake that is going to wreak havoc.