The Peril of Rising Seas


There’s new research among scientists that predicts 3 times as many people will be negatively impacted by rising oceans in the next 30 years than was previously thought. This disturbing data means that several of the world’s greatest metropolitan areas that skirt the ocean could disappear, swept away by tides and the beating of constant ocean waves.

The researchers who authored the study that was published this week have developed a better way to calculate the relationship between elevation of land and the rising level of the ocean. It’s all based on the latest satellite technology, which has revised predictions for coastal cities around the globe. Previous estimates, it turns out, were way too optimistic. This new study indicates that it’s likely over 150 million residents are currently inhabiting coastal lands that will disappear by the middle of the century.

The new research indicates that most of Vietnam will be underwater by 2050. The city of Bangkok, in Thailand, will become an uninhabitable coastal swamp by midcentury as well. Shanghai and its environs also looks to become a casualty of rising seas. 

But the group Climate Central, which financed the new study, says that these areas, as well as many others, don’t have to give in to despair and defeat. Citing the examples of Holland and The Netherlands, the group’s chief executive Benjamin Strauss stresses that if massive investment is made in sea walls, pumping stations, and canals, the probable outcome will be much more positive and allow most people now threatened by rising ocean levels to continue to live on the land for at least another hundred or two hundred years — and by then new technologies hopefully will have brought to pass ways and means to adjust global warming and protect vulnerable shore areas.

Loss of any more arable land to rising seas, notes Strauss, will only exacerbate the already strained food resources in places like India and Bangladesh. It will somewhat cripple rather than increase maritime investments, despite any increase in boat manufacture, or revenue when a boat needs to be transported on land.