But sometimes when you’re studying the science behind climate change, it’s easy to lose track of the story. Climate change isn’t just a hockey stick graph. It isn’t just global temperature projections or satellite records. Climate change is a story about humans, and it’s a daily reality felt by many.
Every week, Climate Reality hosts a series on Twitter called #ScienceSunday, where we make the latest climate science simple, one tweet at a time. Recently, we broke down two new studies on sea-level rise – and what they mean for people – with help from our friends at Climate Central. If you missed it because you were taking it easy like Sunday morning, here’s a recap of what happened.
Today, sea levels are rising faster than at any time in the last 2,800 years.
One of the authors of the new study cited in this graphic, Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, said accelerated sea-level rise “was to be expected, since global warming inevitably leads to rising seas.” Here’s a quick break down of what he means:
Carbon pollution from fossil fuel burning and industry is at an all-time high, and both atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and global temperatures have increased dramatically since the Industrial Revolution. Carbon pollution traps more and more heat in our atmosphere, and these warmer temperatures cause glaciers to melt and sea water to expand – leading to sea-level rise.
Sea levels are rising faster than at any time in almost 3,000 years – and the reason why is clear: human-caused climate change.
Sea-level rise is accelerating and worsening coastal flooding worldwide.
Sea-level rise is happening at a shocking rate. According to NASA’s latest measurements, it’s rising by 3.41 mm per year globally. So there’s a little more water, what’s the big deal? Well, we’re already starting to see dangerous effects like major spikes in coastal flooding worldwide, and researchers have attributed more and more of this flooding to climate change.
There are human fingerprints on thousands of US coastal floods, according to these studies.
While a huge range of causes can contribute to sea-level rise, these researchers have found that human-caused climate change often tipped the balance in US coastal flooding events. For example, in Wilmington, North Carolina they estimate that there have been 795 days of coastal flooding since 1950 and an incredible 613 have been categorized as human-caused. That means over 75 percent of coastal flood days would not have happened without climate change, according to this study.
When we act on climate, we protect our cities from sea-level rise.
The United Nations Environmental Programme estimates that half of the world’s population lives within 60 kilometers (about 37 miles) of a coast – and three-quarters of all major cities are on a shoreline. If we continue to burn dirty fossil fuels at ever higher rates (“business as usual”), the world’s average temperature is expected to be 2 – 7°C higher than pre-industrial levels. As we mentioned earlier, higher temperatures mean higher sea levels creeping up on great cities from Boston to Bombay.
We took a huge step in the right direction to help mitigate rising sea levels last December. At the UN’s COP 21 climate conference in Paris, representatives from 195 countries across every corner of the world reached a landmark global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep global warming under 2°C.
But Our Work Isn’t Finished
With the evidence of a changing climate all around us, it’s more clear than ever that world leaders need to make good on the promises they made in Paris. On April 22, 2016 – Earth Day – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is hosting a Paris Agreement signing ceremony in New York, where leaders will have the opportunity to formally show the world that their nation is committed to climate action.
The only problem is – most world leaders haven’t sent in their RSVP. And we think it’s important that they do, in order to send a strong statement that the planet is united in moving forward after Paris. Join us in calling for world leaders to attend the ceremony on Earth Day, April 22 in New York and add your name to our petition today.
Be sure to also follow us on Twitter and join us for #ScienceSunday, where we make climate science – and what you can do about climate change – simple, every week.