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Surprising Rising Seas “Must Reads”

CLIMATE

GLOBAL WARMING - Sea levels are surging along the US coastline, exceeding 30-year expectations. Scientists are confused, concerned, searching for answers. 

In that regard, an excellent new series by The Washington Post d/d April 29th, 2024 “Must Reads” is an eye-opening view into the impact of global warming in real time with real people and real images. For example, it’s a quick fix for anybody who doubts human-caused climate change influence on sea level rise. It’s real; it’s happening now; it should be required reading for America’s Congressional climate deniers. 

And required reading for 50 million Americans who do not believe in climate change/global warming, according to a new University of Michigan study. Meanwhile a diametrically opposing viewpoint: “Planet is headed for at least 2.5C of heating with disastrous results for humanity, poll of hundreds of scientists finds.” (Source: World’s Top Climate Scientists Expect Global Heating to Blast Past 1.5C Target, The Guardian, May 8, 2024) 

As a prelude to the 2024 elections, it should be noted: “When former President Donald Trump exited the Oval Office in January 2021, he left behind a record of environmental roll backs unrivaled in U.S. History.” Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 playbook will do more: MAGA Republicans Have a 920-Page Plan to Make Climate Change Worse, Heatmap News, February 15, 2024. 

Here's the opening tickler for the thought-provoking “Must Reads” series: “This past week, The Post published the first two pieces in a new series showcasing an alarming phenomenon confronting tens of millions of Americans from Texas to North Carolina: The ocean is rising across the South faster than almost anywhere. In some communities, roads increasingly are falling below the highest tides, leaving drivers stuck in repeated delays or forcing them to slog through salt water to reach homes, schools, work, and places of worship. Researchers and public officials fear that in certain places, rising waters could periodically cut off residents from essential services such as medical aid.” 

A 2023 Scientific American article: U.S. Seas Are Rising at Triple the Global Average conforms to the inescapable conclusion of a need for sirens and flashing red lights to signal the dangers imbedded in Must Reads: “Sea levels have surged along the coastlines of the southeastern United States, new research finds — hitting some of their highest rates in more than a century… the effect on communities near the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean already are being observed.” 

Alarmingly, sea-level rise of the Southeast and the Gulf already exceed scientific models projected for the next 30 years, prompting a mad scramble by scientists looking for answers to why sea levels are 30 years ahead of schedule. Nobody is braced for this happening so fast. 

“The recent Journal of Climate study suggested that the increase may be driven by changes in a warm-water current passing through the Gulf of Mexico. And these changes may in turn be fueled by a recent slowdown in a major Atlantic Ocean current, driven by human-caused climate change,” Ibid. 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -NOAA- high-tide flooding along the Gulf and East coasts has increased considerably: High-tide flooding days are up 400% in the Southeast and 1,100% in the Gulf since 2000. It’s no wonder that property insurance premiums are spiking, and shorelines are slipping. It’s real; it’s happening now. 

Solutions: Adapt to Sea Levels and Mitigate CO2 to Avoid Worst-Case 

What to do: According to Sönke Dangendorf, an expert in coastal engineering at Tulane University and lead author of the new study: “We need to prepare for that: we need to adapt,” Ibid. 

A new study authored by Lily Roberts at State of the Planet, Columbia Climate School Increase in West Antarctica Ice Sheet Melting Inevitable in 21st Century d/d January 26, 2024, emphasizes the necessity for adaptation measures to combat sea level rise: “The new findings paint a grave picture for the state of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. We may now have limited capacity to stop ice-shelf collapse in the region and prevent meters of global sea-level rise. Experts are warning that policymakers should consider adaptation to sea-level rise a primary concern, as the window to safeguard the ice sheet from irreversible damage has probably now passed…. This new research paints a more realistic picture for the fate of Antarctic ice shelves and highlights the necessity for continued mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the worst-case ocean warming scenario, as well as the urgent need for prioritization of adaptation to global sea-level rise.”  

Adapting to rising sea levels entails moving physical structures away from coastal areas exposed to loss of shorelines and building massive sea walls, begging the all-important question of whether it’s already too late to stop, full stop, greenhouse gas CO2 emissions produced by oil and gas companies, which, in turn, causes global warming and sea level rise. What to do and how soon to do it is a nagging issue that requires immediate attention at the highest levels. Unless, of course, people simply don’t give a damn and let the chips fall where they may, aka: “avoidance coping.” 

Furthermore, compounding the issue for the US, it’s not only the Southeastern and Gulf coasts, but also happening in Maine: “What were once distant projections on TV and in newspapers have now made it to the doorsteps of thousands of coastal residents in Maine: sea levels are rising at an alarming rate, with some areas in the state experiencing water levels eight inches higher than what they were in 1950. Estimates show that sea level rise will only continue to accelerate in coming decades.” (Source: Manomet Awarded New Funding To Study Sea Level Rise Impacts On Maine’s Coastal Communities, The Manomet Team, January 25, 2023) 

Humanity is smack dab in the early stages of a man-made climate crisis that’s just now starting to strut its stuff in open public The question remains whether a self-induced climate crisis can be self-reduced, but in all honesty and by all appearances, world leadership prefers to continue playing Russian roulette with a single round of fossil fuels. CO2 emissions are 76% of greenhouse gases that cause overheating of the planet, and CO2’s primary source is oil and gas production, which clearly presents the dilemma of all dilemmas. 

What to do? And when is it too late? And is it possible to live without oil and gas production? 

Humanity did live without oil and gas production for thousands of years pre-Colonel Drake's heralded discovery of oil in Pennsylvania in 1859 (world population 1.2 billion at the time) that set the stage for a new oil economy. Going forward, can an overcrowding 8.1 billion world civilization exist without oil and gas production, and more importantly, can 8.1B survive with it? 

It's notable that climate scientists say halting CO2 emissions will slow the rate of increase of planetary heat. Thus, things can be done to alleviate the impact of global warming so that it’s not as horribly bad as it is without any mitigation whatsoever. Less horrible is good. 

Meanwhile… HOUSTON — “Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said Monday that the energy transition is failing, and policymakers should abandon the ‘fantasy’ of phasing out oil and gas, as demand for fossil fuels is expected to continue to grow in the coming years.” (Source: Saudi Aramco CEO Says Energy Transition is Failing, World Should Abandon ‘Fantasy’ of Phasing Out Oil, CNBC News, March 18, 2024). 

Really? Seriously? Amin who? 

Because international oil and gas interests plan on increasing production, by a lot, which is accepted by world leaders with open arms, there’s no stopping a sure-fire rapid rate of sea level never witnessed before. The Global Oil and Gas Tracker claims: Fourfold Increase in New Oil and Gas Fields to Push Climate Further From 1.5°C Pathway. 

Assuming all-above plays out as described, meaning oil & gas producers pump full-blast like psychopaths with a death wish, the only option left is building massive sea walls, re-introducing medieval fortifications throughout the world, a throwback to the 5th-14th centuries when horse-drawn four-wheeled carts and walking were the modes of transportation, thereby establishing Net Zero once and for all.

(Robert Hunziker, MA, economic history DePaul University, awarded membership in Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has over 200 published articles appearing in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide.)

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