Of the major issues plighting our planet during the Climate Crisis we are experiencing today, sea level rise is of great concern. While the film The Day After Tomorrow went a little too far, portraying the effects of global warming as a massive flood of New York city that immediately froze over, the idea that the rising ocean is becoming a serious threat was right on point.
The rise of the global sea levels is directly correlated to the rise in global temperatures. There are two major effects of rising temperatures: melting ice and thermal expansion of water. Melting ice makes the most sense when we think about the volume of water that is increasing when glaciers melt. This is perpetuated by the cycle of warming. Of the energy from the sun that reaches the planet’s surface, 7% of that is reflected off the ice sheets back into space and the atmosphere. As more ice sheets melt, less energy will be reflected back, thus causing the planet to absorb more heat. As the planet continues to heat, ice sheets will continue to melt, and the water will continue to rise.
The less commonly known cause of sea level rise is the thermal expansion of water. As water heats up like it has been due to global temperature rise, the molecular bonds expand, and it takes up more space. Regardless of the physical state of the ice caps, sea levels will continue to rise as the planet continues to heat up.
While rising sea levels pose a threat to the entire world, islands in the Pacific and coastal developing nations are disproportionately affected. With a majority of the country sitting less that 15 feet above sea level and 1/3 of the country less than 7 feet above sea level, Bangladesh, a developing nation in Southeast Asia, will be one of the first victims of this ocean crisis in the coming years. The people of Bangladesh have no other option to protect themselves but to flee when their home country begins to submerge, creating millions of climate refugees. Not only are these developing nations hit hardest with the effects of climate change, but it is important to realize that they contributed very little to the problem. While there are factories in these countries, they are placed there by companies from industrialized western nations exploiting their people. Pacific Islanders are also at a great risk as they are completely surrounded the rising ocean with nowhere to go when it begins to flood.
The connection between environmental and social justice is very strong in the case of rising sea levels as yet again people of color and other disadvantaged communities are the victims of the climate crisis while they barely had a hand in creating and perpetuating this crisis. It is not until powerful people from industrialized nations begin to make changes and realize the global effects of their actions that any justice will be achieved for the people of these countries that will be flooded and forced to become refugees.
It is important to understand sea level rise as a major environmental threat and how we, as individuals and a society, contribute to it. Global temperature rise is largely caused by greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere, and as we know, food waste emits a massive amount of greenhouse gases. In addition to food waste, we must also look at transportation and the carbon dioxide it emits whether it bet via cars, buses, and most especially planes. Transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle by paying attention to all the resources we consume and what comes out is the first step in handling the environmental issues at hand.