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What should policymakers do to minimize damage from sea level rise? Restrict construction along coasts? Curb greenhouse gas emissions? Replenish and fortify shorelines with seawalls and sand restoration?
Voice Your Opinion.

Related Links

EarthPulse Portal page

EarthPulse News page

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change www.ipcc.ch Producer of three assessment reports on climate change, the IPCC released their 2001 data on January 22. Read their latest findings here.

Reason Public Policy Institute: “A Plain English Guide to Climate Change” www.rppi.org/environment/...

Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) www.nbi.ac.uk/psmsl/ The PSMSL based in England has been providing sea level data since 1933. Access an online catalog of sea level data for sites around the world.

EPA Global Warming Site—Sea Level Rise Reports www.epa.gov/globalwarming/... Provides an exhaustive list of publications on sea level rise, particularly its effects on the United States.

Pew Center on Global Climate Change www.pewclimate.org Research reports and fact sheets on climate change and sea level rise.

U.S. Global Change Resource Information Office www.gcrio.org Lots of links to climate change sites here.

University of Hawaii Sea Level Center www.soest.hawaii.edu/... Provides real-time data on sea level at individual stations around the world.


Ozone Action: “Global Warming and Sea Level Rise” www.ozone.org/sealevel.html

Food and Agriculture Organization Sustainable Development Department: “Potential Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Populations and Agriculture” www.fao.org/...

Prescott College Sustainability and Global Change Program: Sea Level Rise/Flood Hazards www.soest.hawaii.edu Shows images and animation of effects of sea level rise on regions such as New York City and San Francisco.

Gaffin, S. “Impact of Sea Level Rise on Selected Coasts and Islands.” November 1997. www.edf.org/...

Bloomfield, J. et al. “Hot Nights in the City: Global Warming, Sea Level Rise and the New York Metropolitan Region.” June 1999. www.edf.org/...

Bloomfield, J. and S. Showell. “Global Warming: Our Nation’s Capital at Risk.” May 1997. www.environmentaldefense.org/...

Article by Eileen Yam
Art by Alec Syme
  If you feel like your favorite beach keeps getting skimpier each time you visit, it’s not your imagination.  
  Over 70 percent of the world’s sandy beaches are eroding as rising seas leach sediment from these critical buffer zones separating ocean from coastal properties. Most scientists now agree that human activities like fossil fuel burning contribute to a warming of the Earth’s surface, and as global temperatures continue to creep higher—up one degree Fahrenheit (0.6°C) in the past century—researchers are vigilantly monitoring the effects of climate change on our oceans.

In January the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change delivered a stark warning in their latest 1,000-page report [see Related Links]. Seas have risen six inches (15 centimeters) in the past century, a pace ten times faster than the average over the last 2,000 years. In the next 100 years a spike in sea levels will tack on another foot and a half (47 centimeters), with warmer temperatures causing thermal expansion of oceans and glacier melts. Among the most alarming scenarios: the total melting of Greenland’s ice sheet, which could add over 20 feet (6.1 meters). But this degree of colossal melting is centuries away, and we don’t need to wait that long to see how sealevel rise already jeopardizes the livelihood of millions.

Oceangoers have long flocked to shorelines, attracted by the allure of beachfront vacation homes and accessibility to water-based industries and transportation. Over a third of the world’s population now lives within 62 miles (100 kilometers) of a shoreline, and 13 of the world’s 20 largest cities are located on a coast. Unfortunately, the world’s booming coastal population faces an uphill battle for survival against rising seas. As sea levels go up, wetland ecosystems suffer, saltwater contaminates aquifers, and catastrophic storms wreck coastal properties. Particularly vulnerable are low-lying lands and shallow islands. High-rise resorts perch precariously along shorelines of tiny Caribbean nations whose economies rely heavily on tourist dollars. In countries such as Bangladesh, where the flood-prone Ganges Delta is the breadbasket of the nation, the entire country—not just coastal dwellers—suffers from episodic inundation of crops. Saltwater intrusion on groundwater sources in the Marshall Islands has rendered aquifers useless. Louisiana is losing as much as 35 square miles (91 square kilometers) of wetlands a year to erosion. If sea levels continue to inch higher, the severity and frequency of the destruction will only increase.

Get the whole story in the pages of National Geographic magazine.


Bird, E. Submerging Coasts: The Effects of a Rising Sea Level on Coastal Environments. John Wiley & Sons, 1993.

Clarkson, J. and J. Schmandt. The Regions and Global Warming: Impacts and Response Strategies. Oxford University Press, 1992.

Douglas, B. et al. Sea Level Rise: History and Consequences. Academic Press, 2001.

Lamb, H. Climate, History and the Modern World. Routledge, 1995.


Hodges, Glenn. “The New Cold War: Stalking Arctic Climate Change by Submarine,” National Geographic magazine (March 2000), 30-41.

Suplee, C. “Unlocking the Climate Puzzle,” National Geographic magazine (May 1998), 38-71.

Ackerman, Jennifer. “Islands at the Edge,” National Geographic magazine (August 1997), 2-31

Restless Earth. National Geographic Books, 1997

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