The ocean is no longer the place to swim, as the latest wave of sea-level rise threatens to push it back onto the radar of many who live in coastal cities.
On Monday, the United Nations announced that coastal areas of East Africa, the Middle East and parts of South America could see sea levels rise by up to 8 inches over the next 50 years.
That could make life much harder for many residents in coastal areas and make it difficult to build houses and other structures in those areas, said David C. Wirth, a professor of oceanography at the University of Washington.
A warmer water mass and a warmer climate are predicted to bring with them greater amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
That can have a negative impact on coastal communities.
“The impacts of rising sea levels and the impacts of warming temperatures on coastal life will be a challenge,” said Wirth.
“There are people in those coastal areas who are going to be left in a very difficult situation.”
As a result, the global community is working to slow or reverse climate change, with many countries making a commitment to reducing carbon emissions, and more countries developing plans to deal with climate change.
As the ocean becomes more vulnerable to sea level rise, the risk of flooding in coastal communities has grown.
Flooding is a common occurrence in the oceans, and coastal communities are more vulnerable because they are closer to the shoreline and have more people in them, Wirth said.
For many people living in coastal towns, flooding could become more of a daily reality, with residents being forced to relocate if the sea rises higher than what is forecast.
“The coastal cities that are being built will have to deal directly with the effects of the flooding,” Wirth told The Associated Press by phone.
“I don’t think the world has really had the chance to look at the full extent of the problems associated with rising sea level.”
A recent study from Wirth and others found that a rise of 3 inches in sea level over the coming century could result in the displacement of 4 million people and the loss of nearly 10 percent of the world’s agricultural production.
As more people move to coastal cities, there is the potential for flooding to become a problem even more in those cities.
But in some areas, it may not be a problem at all, said Withers.
“There are many areas in the world where flooding is actually an economic issue,” he said.
“Flooding in the coastal cities is not really a significant problem because most of the people who live there live on the coast.
There are many people who are not going to relocate because they have a job and they’re not going anywhere.”
While the risk from flooding may be greater in some coastal areas, the impact on residents of those areas is not.
Wither said many people may not even be aware of the danger because of the amount of time they spend in their homes.
“People in the inland areas are generally aware of it,” he added.
“A lot of people who come from inland areas might think they have no choice but to move, and they’ll probably move, but they may not realize that they are going out of their way to move.”
But that’s not to say residents in inland areas have no options.
Wathers pointed to his own hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, where he works as a professor at the school of engineering and public policy.
“People have options,” he told The AP.
“They have options to be able to afford houses.
They have options in terms of moving to the coast, and a lot of that depends on their ability to find a place to live.””
The whole concept of the coastal area is that it’s not that far from the sea and that it has a lot more of the water than the coast,” he continued.
“But that doesn’t mean it has all the water, and it’s a place that has a tremendous amount of human population.”
As people try to build new houses and build new structures on the coasts, they are also confronted with the reality that many coastal communities do not have the funds to buy new buildings, Wither noted.
The United Nations estimates that about 3 billion people around the world live in vulnerable coastal areas.
Of those 3 billion, more than a quarter live in North America and Europe, according to the UN.
Many of the more vulnerable people live in the areas where rising seas are projected to be the most likely to impact them, including in Australia, the US, Japan and Canada, Wather said.
Wirth said the more people moving to coastal areas as a result of sea level rises, the more coastal communities will need to adjust to the consequences.
“We’re seeing a lot that is already happening in Australia and other places,” he explained.
“And the thing is, it is going to take time for the coastal communities to adapt to that, and we’ll have to see what happens.”
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