According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Global Mean Sea Level has been rising at an average rate of 1 to 3 mm/year over the past 100 years, which is significantly larger than the rate averaged over the last several thousand years. Also, the average ocean level increase since the early 1990s has been 3.5mm per year.

Why is this happening?  As you can see in the models below, Arctic sea ice has been melting at a very rapid pace over the past few decades. This can only lead to Sea Level Rise.  Of course this has happened before, just over a period of time that was very short for the Earth but was a very long period for humans.  This time is different!  We are compressing what would naturally happen over several thousand years and placing it in a time frame of a few hundred years- the period of time from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  Now we have what is commonly called "Global Warming", and is normally referred to in the scientific community as "Climate Change".

Sea Level Rise is happening with Climate Change due to the Greenhouse Effect.  The Greenhouse Effect is natural.  Without the Greenhouse Effect, the Earth would be 33 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler, but we are changing this in a negative way.  With the burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) more CO2 and other emissions are being released into the atmosphere.  These emissions trap more of the Sun's energy than what would occur naturally and thus cause a man-made change in climate.
Graph of Sea Level Rise from the University of Colorado.
Map of Observed Arctic Sea Ice Change between 1979 and 2003
Map of Sea Ice Changes over past decades
James Hansen, a prominent NASA climatologist, predicted the likelihood that the earth will reach a point of rising sea levels of up to a meter every 20 years.  The reason for this is an extra degree of global temperature resulting in the runaway melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice sheets.  James Hansen wrote about the problems of scientific conservatism on this matter in New Scientist  magazine saying "Scientific Reticence can hinder communication with the public about the dangers of global warming.  We may rue reticence if it means no action is taken until it is too late to prevent future disasters".

It is relatively only in recent times that society has taken notice of Climate Change with the correlations between carbon dioxide and temperature rise.  With the latest information we can see another correlation between temperature and an increase in sea level.  According to William K. Michener, of the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, the greenhouse effect will cause the ocean to gather thermal inertia that will heat the continents and slowly melt the polar ice caps, increasing ocean levels worldwide.

Dr. Karl Barganza, of the Melbourne Bureau of Meteorology states "When we are measuring averages so we're looking at Arctic sea ice. It was second-lowest on record in 2011 and looks like it's heading for a lowest on record this year. That is the sort of thing where you can definitely say look: There's an influence of Global Warming on a trend in the loss of ice in the Arctic."

In 2012 Ice2sea (a scientific research group funded by the European Union) concluded "There is increasing evidence that the loss of ice from polar ice-sheets is caused not by warming air, but by the warming waters produced as ocean circulation patterns begin to change.  Projections of ocean change in the fjords around Greenland and the frigid seas around Antarctica show that this is likely to continue in future".

Satellites have detected thinning of  the Greenland Ice Sheet at lower elevations, and glaciers are disgorging ice into the ocean more rapidly, adding 0.23 to 0.57 mm/yr to the sea within the last decade.  The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is also showing some signs of thinning.  Either ice sheet, if melted completely, contains enough ice to raise sea level by 5-7 meters.

Most climate scientists project rising ocean levels of one meter in the next  50-150 years.  In the United States The Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) projects a land loss of about 22,000 square miles with this one meter increase.  The EPA  found that Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and South Carolina would lose the most land in the United States.  In Bangladesh there are 17 million people living on land that is less than one meter above sea level.  Also, eighty percent of the Maldives Islands in the Indian Ocean will be gone with a sea level rise of one meter.

The problems we face are the result of major lobbying forces, such as the Fossil Fuel Energy Industry(coal,oil, natural gas).  In order to maximize short term  profits, they have influenced our governments to ignore the evidence of Climate Change and not to act.  The focus should be on changing to renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.  There are those that say the cost will be too great but that is short term thinking.  Fossil Fuels will be gone within a couple hundred years, so why not switch before their emissions are in the air we breath?  The cost of fossil fuels will only go up at a rapid pace as they diminish in supply and the costs involved with doing nothing involve a bit more than money.  It is up to us to put pressure on our governments and let them know that the status quo is unacceptable.  We must let our governments know  that we can change our leaders at the same rate as the climate until we see action.  The Arctic Sea Ice is melting at a rapid rate due to the Greenhouse Effect.  There isn't much we can do with rising ocean levels after the fact.  How long can we go without doing something to stop the catastrophe that is about to happen?
Model showing Global Temperature Change since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Notice where the biggest changes are: The Arctic.
“I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security.  Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad.  Otherwise what is there to defend?”

  - Robert Redford
Environmental Quote of the Month
Map of Sea Level Rise showing Affected Areas in the Northeastern United States with a rise of one meter in the Atlantic Ocean.
Climate Change and Sea Level Rise
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