The world is set to lose half it’s sandy beaches by 2100, and it’s not too late to save most of them. A new study has reported that these beaches will be lost due to sea-level rise. For numerous coastal regions, sea-level rise is a looming crisis threatening the coastal life, livelihoods, and ecosystems.
Imagine, half of the world’s beaches disappearing by the end of this century and as a result of climate change-induces coastal erosion and rising seas. How heartwrenching will it be to just not do anything about it? As global temperatures continue to rise, driven by emissions of trapping greenhouse gases, melting ice is naturally going to raise sea levels. Extreme weather events will be expected to become more frequent and intense, around the world.
Sandy beaches comprise a third of the world’s coastline, leaving everything at risk. Two of the massive problems resulting are from rising sea levels and an already-observed increase in the frequency of coastal flooding events. Erosion during storms has dramatic consequences, particularly for coastal infrastructure, and after storms, beaches often gradually recover as the sand from deeper waters gets deposited for months and years. These situations make it difficult to identify beach movements in the past from sea-level rise.
Is the planet in deep waters? Metaphorically, there are various opinions and it is true that human actions have caused havoc on the environment and biodiversity, in some cases no way of turning back. According to a study, scientists have encountered an alarming process of sea-level rise: 8 centimeters in the last 23 years. And now, the sea level is rising faster than 50 years ago, that is likely to worsen in the future.
So, why does the sea level matter?
There is approximately high population density in the coastal areas, where the sea level plays an important role in flooding, shoreline erosion, biodiversity damage, hazards from storms, etc. In urban settings along coastlines around the world, rising seas threaten infrastructure necessary for local jobs and industries.
Roads, bridges, subways, water supplies, oil and gas wells, power plants, sewage treatment plants, landfills – the list is endless- are all at risk from sea-level rise.
Higher sea levels mean more frequent high-tide flooding as it turns out to be dangerous at some locations. In the natural world, rising sea level creates stress on coastal ecosystems that provide recreations, protection from storms, habitats for fish and wildlife. And as the seas rise, saltwater is starts contaminating freshwater aquifers, that sustain the municipal and agricultural water supplies and natural ecosystem.
What causes the sea level to rise?
Yes, you are absolutely right, Global warming. It causes the global mean sea level to rise in three ways-
- Glaciers and ice sheets worldwide to melt,
- The volume of the ocean expands as the water warms,
- The decline in the amount of water on land- lakes, reservoirs, aquifers, rivers and soil moisture.
From the 1970s, up through the last decades, melting and heat expansion contributed to sea-level rise:
- The decadal average loss from glaciers Globally is equivalent of 6.7 inches (171 mm) in the 1980s, to 18 inches (460mm) in the 1990s, to 20 inches (500mm) in the 2000s, to 33 inches (850mm) for 2010-2018.
- Ices loss from the Greenland Ice sheet increased seven-fold from 34 billion tons per year from 1992 – 2001 to 247 billion tons per year from 2012-2016.
- Antarctic ice loss nearly quadrupled from 51 billion tons per year from 1992-2001 to 199 billion tons from 2012-2016.
“The pace of Global Sea Level rise is more than doubled from 1.4 mm in the 20th century to 3.6mm from 2006-2015.”
Impact of Rising Sea Level:
Although flooding being the obvious consequence of rising sea levels, there are plenty of other effects to consider like:
- Contaminated drinking water: Due to rising sea levels, the water will seep into the freshwater sources in the ground that many coastal areas rely on for drinking water. These underground water sources, like aquifers, springs, groundwater account for most of the planet’s freshwater. Saltwater being unsafe to drink, we will have plenty of water around, but hard to drink.
- Interfering with farming: Some freshwater sources we use for drinking also is supplied for irrigation. The problems here are the same, the intruding sea could make groundwater sources saltier.
- Change our coastal plant life: Maximum saltwater hitting our shores will change the process of the soil on the coast, meaning the plant life will change. Plants are really sensitive to their environments and factors like access to water, air temperature and chemical characteristics of soil thrive influence their growth.
- Threaten wildlife populations: As the rising sea levels erode the shorelines and flood the areas where animals live. The delicate nests of sea turtles and shorebirds may get swept away by flooding. Their habitats may be so damaged by flooding or changes in the surrounding plant life that they can no longer survive in the environment.
- Affect the Economy: The tourism and real-estate industries in the coastal areas are likely to get hit as beachfront properties will get washed away by rising waters. Some of the economically minded local residents and real-estate stakeholders have passed a law banning coastal policymakers from using accelerated sea-level rise predictions to make decisions for communities in some locations globally.
Important Predictions for the future:
Time is all, a minor five-year delay in addressing climate change worldwide will increase the sea levels by another 7.8 inches. So, here’s a timeline of predicted events that will take place when nothing is done.
- By 2033, rising sea levels will flood 4,000 miles of fiber optic cables that deliver the internet and telephone services. Areas like Miami, Seattle, and New York will be affected the most.
- By 2038, 170 U.S coastal cities and towns will be ‘chronically inundate’. At least 10% of their area will flood at least twice a month and by 2100, more than half of the communities will experience it.
- By 2045, 300,000 coastal properties will be flooded 26 times a year- the value of the real estate will be $136 billion.
- By 2100, that number will rise to $1trillion, leaving most of the impacted communities, and San Fransicso experiencing a four-foot rise in sea levels. In general, a two-foot rise can flood up to tens of millions of people living in low-lying areas.
According to a study predicted by NASA, the sea levels are rising faster than the forecast mentioned and predicts it to be three to four feet higher by 2100.
Some Potential Solutions:
- Installing drainage systems and building up seawalls.
- Reducing future greenhouse gas emissions by acting wisely today.
- Switching from fossil fuels to clean and green alternatives like solar, wind and geothermal energy sources.
- Removing existing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
- Plant more trees and vegetation to halt deforestation. 3 trillion trees store 400 gigatons of carbon, now more 1.2 trillion can be planted in vacant lands across the Earth.
- Start restoring peatlands and wetland areas by low-cost carbon solutions, as they contain 550 gigatons of carbon.
- Efficiently use carbon capture and storage as CO2 makes up 5% to 10% of their emissions.
To know more about Architecture Technology, Stay Tuned.