I've always wanted to live on a beach.
According to a New York Times story, if I live to be about 150 -- to the end of this century -- that dream will be at least three vertical feet closer to our current elevation of 440 feet, and possibly a lot more.
Scary, especially for those who already live in low-lying coastal areas, and for young people (plus those yet to be born) who will bear the brunt of global warming effects -- including sea level rise.
Reading "As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas" added to my worries about what sort of a world my granddaughter will be left with.
Scientists long believed that the collapse of the gigantic ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica would take thousands of years, with sea level possibly rising as little as seven inches in this century, about the same amount as in the 20th century.
But researchers have recently been startled to see big changes unfold in both Greenland and Antarctica.
As a result of recent calculations that take the changes into account, many scientists now say that sea level is likely to rise perhaps three feet by 2100 — an increase that, should it come to pass, would pose a threat to coastal regions the world over.
And the calculations suggest that the rise could conceivably exceed six feet, which would put thousands of square miles of the American coastline under water and would probably displace tens of millions of people in Asia.
The scientists say that a rise of even three feet would inundate low-lying lands in many countries, rendering some areas uninhabitable. It would cause coastal flooding of the sort that now happens once or twice a century to occur every few years. It would cause much faster erosion of beaches, barrier islands and marshes. It would contaminate fresh water supplies with salt.
Climate Progress, a must-read blog for anyone who wants to know the facts about climate change, has an extensive analysis of the NY Times story.
An expert on coastal planning, Orrin H. Pilkey, is quoted as advising infrastructure should be built five to seven feet above current sea level, given the rise expected by the end of the century.
Like I said, scary.
Global warming deniers must feel like they're being pushed by facts into an ever-smaller reality space. They like to say that, sure, sea levels are rising, but they've risen in the past by hundreds of feet, so what's the big deal?
Well, the big deal is that human civilization wasn't around when the Earth's ice sheets melted before. That's like saying the dinosaurs went extinct, so where's the problem if Homo sapiens goes extinct?
Climate change science is complicated. But the basic facts are simple. The Skeptical Science web site has them covered in The Big Picture.
The Earth is warming.
Humans are causing this warming.
The warming will continue.
The net result will be bad.
Arguments to the contrary are superficial.
There are legitimate unresolved questions.
The big picture is that we know the planet is warming, humans are causing it, there is a substantial risk to continuing on our current path, but we don't know exactly how large the risk is.
However, uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the risk is not an excuse to ignore it. We also know that if we continue on a business-as-usual path, the risk of catastrophic consequences is very high.
In fact, the larger the uncertainty, the greater the potential for the exceptionally high risk scenario to become reality. We need to continue to decrease the uncertainty, but it's also critical to acknowledge what we know and what questions have been resolved, and that taking no action is not an option.