Recently, the report released by World Meterological Organisation (WMO) has found that the rate of sea level rise has doubled in 2013-22 compared to 1993-2002 at presently 4.62mm/year. This accelerated sea level rise presents potentially disastrous consequences for the weather, agriculture, the extant groundwater crisis, and social disparities.
The reasons behind the accelerated sea-level rise are following:
- Ocean Warming: increase in temperature of the Earth’s oceans due to the absorption of heat from greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, primarily from fossil fuel consumption.
- Loss of glaciers and ice sheets: The melting of these bodies due to global warming. Iceberg A-81 broke off from the Brunt Ice Shelf recently.
- Changes in land water storage: Human Activities such as pumping of ancient groundwater from deep aquifers, drive more water into the ocean and cause additional sea-level rise.
The long term consequences of rising sea levels could be:
- Social: Rising sea levels can force people who live in low-lying coastal areas to relocate, which can result in social, economic, cultural disruptions and widened social gaps.
- Environmental: It will cause changes in the land cover in area beside the sea due to coastal flooding. Rising sea will swallow more land due to erosion, which will lead to land scarcity for the communities living in the coastal area.
- Climate Change: Rising sea levels can lead to more frequent and intense storms, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events, which can cause additional damage and exacerbate the impacts of sea level rise. West Bengal and Odisha are already highly vulnerable to such cyclones.
- National Security: Sea level rise can also pose national security risks, such as increased vulnerability of military bases and coastal infrastructure to flooding and erosion.
- Ecological: The coastal ecosystem and habitat such as mangroves, salt marshes and coral reefs will be impacted. These natural ecosystem provide important ecosystem services, such as coastal protection, habitat for marine life, and carbon storage.
- Agricultural: As sea levels rise, saltwater can intrude into freshwater sources, such as rivers and aquifers, and contaminate drinking water supplies and agricultural lands. This will aggravate the present water crisis in urban coastal cities like Chennai.
In short-term, adaptation measures like building sea walls, elevating homes and relocating critical infrastructure away will help reduce the impact. However, in long term the western countries must come together to reduce emissions which will help slow down the pace of sea level rise. The international community has an important role to play in this effort, and cooperation and collaboration will be crucial in achieving meaningful progress.