The following NOAA map shows the Impact of 6 meters Sea Level Rise. The red indicates areas of inundation resulting in the loss of sovereign territory.
Unfortunately, according to Kenneth G. Miller, professor of earth and planetary sciences, Rutgers University, “The natural state of the earth with present carbon dioxide levels is one with sea levels about 20 meters higher than at present.”
Even more ominously the atmospheric carbon dioxide trend is inexorably higher. Over the last fifty years there has been a 25 percent increase from 320 parts per million (ppm) to 400 ppm and in spite of the fact the threat from climate change has been public knowledge for at least half that period, the rate of increase has remained constant.
Sea levels won’t be 20 meters higher tomorrow. It may take a thousand or possibly two thousand years for enough ice to melt to cause such an increase. Or possibly not, the consequences of climate change have been worse than was previously expected.
Two thousand years ago Rome was the center of the universe and shortly before that it was Athens. Although those empires collapsed, Rome and Athens are still with us. The same will not be said of London, Tokyo, Sydney, New York, Shanghai, Calcutta, Miami, Ho Chi Minh City, Mumbai, Guangzhou, New Orleans and others two thousand years from today. The prospects for those cities is the reality of ancient Alexandria, which now lies beneath the waves.
Nickolay Lamm, an artist and researcher has created visuals showing eight different locations in the United States and how they might look if sea levels keep rising by 5, 12, and 25 feet.
For 20 meters, or 70 feet, it isn’t much of a stretch of the imagination to visualize the greater impact.
In view of the political reality of the last 25 years the debate now rages whether it is best to mitigate climate change or to adapt to it.
Mitigation involves arresting future carbon emissions, while adaptation requires becoming more resilient to the expected impacts.
In the short term there may be some potential for localized adaptation to the half to two meters of sea level rise that are anticipated by the end of this century.
In the long run however there is no adaptation to 20 meters of sea level rise and a ten fold increase in extreme storm surges.
Capitulation of thousands of square miles of sovereign territory is inevitable if we do not mitigate our carbon emissions. As abhorrent as that prospect might be to the same element of the political spectrum that now sees climate change as their opponents issue in view of the massive government involvement required to address the problem.
Right wingers typically support, adaptation, free enterprise and argue for strong national defense programs.
What good though are strong national defense programs that cannot preserve sovereign territory?
To a large degree there is an element of the classic Stanford marshmallow experiment to the climate problem. Psychologist Walter Mischel, found that children who were able to delay gratification by waiting for a two fold reward as opposed to the immediate one tended to have better life outcomes.
By converting to renewable energy, which will take time to realize, we can not only preserve our sovereign territories our grandchildren will have better life outcomes.
And was pointed out here, we can develop more energy, and produce that energy forever to boot.
In the alternative how do you provide for half again as many humans with less land? Particularly when the first to go will be the furtile river deltas that are the source of much of our current food supply and when the flip side of sea level rise are droughts such as the one now gripping the U.S. southwest.