A new federal report warns of accelerating the impact of sea level rise

SAN AUGUSTINILLA, Mexico. While the towering ocean encroaches on a small sandy spit that connects the beaches of San Agustinilla with a rocky promontory along Mexico’s southern coast, local fishermen say it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a place to beach their boats after perch fishing. tuna and sea bream in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Without a harbor, boats quickly emerge from the water onto the sand, the driver pulls out the propeller when the nose hits a dry beach.

Tides over the past few years have regularly ripped steep cliffs off the sand, making it almost impossible to pull all boats ashore, said Anam Cruz, who has been fishing for 26 years for his family and society. Boats to watch whales, dolphins and turtles can also be landed on the site, eating up Mexico’s economically important tourism industry.

“This is new. I know the sea is approaching, but no one has told us that the beaches will change so much, ”Cruz said. “Sometimes now we can’t fish. That was just a few weeks after the big hurricanes during the rainy season, maybe every five years. ”

But global warming is accelerating geological changes to rates that are sensitive throughout life or even years.

Many residents of coastal southern Mexico are unaware that the sea around them is likely to rise another 15-20 inches in just the next 30 years.

These forecasts were confirmed on Tuesday by an update report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA using new satellite data and climate models along with improved estimates of historical data from tide gauges dating back more than 100 years.

“What we are reporting today is historic,” he said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, who told Americans that the average sea level on their coasts will rise by 10-12 inches over the next 30 years and by 2 feet by the end of the century.

“And that assessment is on the conservative side,” he said. “Failure to reduce emissions will have even greater consequences.”

Like Cruz, Nicole LeBeauf is the director of NOAA National Oceanic Serviceduring her life witnessed the acceleration of sea level rise.

“I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast and we know the ocean and coast are always changing,” she said. “These are not the changes we grew up with.”

She warned of “a deep increase in coastal floods with storms or heavy rainfall … and floods with tides.”

Urgent adaptation

The report confirms that “things will get worse soon,” the statement said Andrea Datan, a researcher on sea level rise from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She said the report shows that by 2050, the U.S. coast will experience major changes in flood patterns, largely due to rising sea levels.

“Such language, it’s NOAA sending a red flag,” she said. “Now we are struggling, trying to catch up with the changes that have taken place, but as it accelerates, it will be a completely different level that we are dealing with. We see this freight train going more than a mile away. ”

Dathan said the report also raises concerns about “turning points” in sea levels, including a rapid increase in melting of offshore polar glaciers, which could spur much faster growth. If the frozen shelf glaciers around Antarctica begin to lose stability, or if the ice cliffs begin to break with huge plates, “the system crosses the threshold,” she said, “and you can’t stop it.”

“We are now measuring sea level rise in millimeters per year. If we pass these turning points, it will be centimeters a year, ”she said. “You never know where the turning point is until you pass it, and now it seems we are either very close to the greater instability of the sea ice cover.”

But the tipping point is clearly close enough to do everything possible to prevent further retreat of Antarctic shelf ice, she said.

And there are also terrestrial turning points related to sea level, she continued. While sea levels are gradually rising, it is already close to much of the coastal infrastructure in the U.S., with seawater flooding drainage systems and even some drinking water supplies.

Along some coasts, natural sites such as dunes and swamps may hold back the sea a little, but once the sea rises above them, it can spread inland, causing great concern for Florida, where much of the area is just above sea level. .

“We’re filled to the brim,” Datan said. “And if you move your lip, it can take a very long time.”

The flow of emotions

Along with the direct physical impacts, Dathan said it may be time to think about rising sea levels in the context of loss, grief and acceptance.

“It’s like realizing for the first time in your childhood that people ever die,” she said. “The first step is to accept that the future will look different. Sometimes it seems to me that instead of science and technology, we should invest in grief counseling for coastal communities. ”

The report includes a detailed map of sea level rise, and federal agencies and researchers have other tools that can show how sea level rise affects U.S. coastal communities block by block. There are well-known, albeit expensive, ways to protect some places with floods, dams or dams or restored coastal ecosystems such as swamps and mangrove forests.

“The coastline will move,” Dathan said, adding that some places simply could not survive.

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Much of the information in the report was disseminated worldwide through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. report physically based climate change last summer that brightly shown that no coastal area of ​​the world is immune to rising sea levels and other threats to global warming.

But this does not mean that information goes where it is needed, and even if it does, many countries do not have the resources to prepare for the rise in water. The nations that are least able to contain floods are often the ones that have produced the least amount of climate-warming emissions that fill the oceans.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFCC) has recently documented its impact on the coast report called Turning the Tide, which describes abandoned coastal villages in the Mexican state of Tabasco, where there are few resources for resettlement.

Some of the few people left now have to strengthen the foundations of their homes on a daily basis. In Bangladesh, an aid agency described a family that had already lost their home three times due to rising water. Some villages now remain flooded for months after tropical cyclones hit.

For some island nations, an updated report from U.S. science agencies confirms the death sentence, which was handed down many years ago. Even if greenhouse gas emissions stop tomorrow, Pacific Atoll islands such as Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and the Maldives, in a region where sea levels are rising 2-3 times faster than the world average, are threatened with extinction soon decades.

У Report for 2019The IPCC has warned that sea levels were 20-30 feet higher than they are today, in past geological eras, when the average global temperature was only 1-1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than it is now – temperatures that the planet will exceed if it continues its current trajectory. heating.

Flowing down through coastal ecosystems

In coastal Oaxaca, biologists say it’s not just people who need to worry about global warming and rising sea levels. Rapid changes threaten sea turtles that have existed for more than 100 million years, adapting to megaclimatic changes that have occurred at a slower geological time scale.

But as sea levels rise faster than beaches can be rebuilt, the same sand cliffs that hinder fishing boats also prevent some turtles from crawling to their breeding grounds. Research show that increasing beach erosion is a key threat to sea turtle breeding worldwide.

In some cases, researchers have also documented that turtles seem to crawl farther from the ocean to get away from oncoming water, but this could cause them to dig their nests in much warmer sand, affecting the number of eggs that hatch and the floor. hatched. If it gets too warm, some turtles may disappear because too few males hatch.

Coastal bird nesting sites in wetlands are also flooded by the ocean, and since human development has already changed many estuaries, there are not many options left for some species. The U.S. Geological Survey is tracking several species of small mammals in coastal swamps that may soon disappear.

Warming, rising oceans are already affecting sea turtle breeding, and sea levels could rise another 15-20 inches by the middle of the century if carbon emissions don’t decrease any time soon. In some places turtles are taken away from the sea to the hotter part of the beach, where breeding is more difficult. Credit: Bob Bervin

Another research suggests that rapid sea level rise could destroy coastal mangrove forests that currently protect coastal communities. Mangrove plants also absorb a lot of carbon dioxide from the air, so their loss will also lead to increased greenhouse gas levels and further global warming.

A new federal report boosts confidence in predicting sea level rise, especially for the next 30 years, Natalie Snyder, Vice President of the Environmental Protection Fund for Climate Coasts and Watersheds. It is important to make decisions in the near future on how to protect people and ecosystems.

“Many are also thinking that some communities will not be able to stay where they are,” she said. “Some people have already reached a turning point, mostly wealthy white people, in some places leaving behind a disadvantaged population that is unable to move.” A new federal report warns of accelerating the impact of sea level rise

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