LONG BEACH, CALIF. —
Scientists say the sea levels are rising and will continue to do so indefinitely. Coastal communities around the world are already feeling the impact of the rising waters. Many cities and towns are adapting to this new reality. Their response has been photographed and is being presented at an exhibit called Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change.
Devastating storms and floods are part of a new reality around the globe, said oceanographer and president of the Aquarium of the Pacific, Jerry Schubel.
“Global climate change is resulting in rising seas, coastal flooding and increasingly powerful storm surges,” he said.
A video of the rising water produced by the aquarium shows how low-lying places around the world that flood historically are the areas that are immediately vulnerable to the sea level change. Meteorologist Dan Cayan with Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego said recent trends will continue.
“In the last couple of decades it’s risen at a greater rate. We think very confidently it will accelerate in the next several decades,” said Cayan.
Scientists estimate by the end of the century, the seas will rise by an average of almost a meter around the world and continue to climb.
“Sea level rise will not end in 2100. It’s an ongoing problem, as the planet adjusts to a new, essentially a new energy balance because of greenhouse gases,” said Cayan.
Cayan said greenhouse gases are warming the planet, “and as the climate warms, the potential for unleashing stored water on Earth, largely in Greenland, Antarctica, holds a lot of potential sea level rise in the future."
How people around the world are affected by flooding and how they are adapting to the rising sea is shown in the photo exhibit Sink or Swim, said guest curator Frances Anderton.
“We have the issue of the rising seas but that is coupled with our desire to live on coast lines. There is an intense level of development on coastlines,” said Anderton.
One photo in the exhibit, taken in Bangladesh by Jonas Bendiksen, shows students attending a floating school on a wooden boat. Another photo, taken by Iwan Baan, features a more high-tech floating building from the Netherlands, a contemporary house boat made of aluminum and glass.
Scientists say city planners in coastal communities must continue to come up with innovative ways to adapt to rising seas. Through futuristic infrastructure and buildings that are water-friendly, communities will better withstand the fiercer storms of the changing environment and minimize human suffering.