Editorial viewpoints from Climate Central's writers and editors.

New York Times Op-Ed: Rising Seas, Vanishing Coastlines

By  and 

THE oceans have risen and fallen throughout Earth’s history, following the planet’s natural temperature cycles. Twenty thousand years ago, what is now New York City was at the edge of a giant ice sheet, and the sea was roughly 400 feet lower. But as the last ice age thawed, the sea rose to where it is today.

Now we are in a new warming phase, and the oceans are rising again after thousands of years of stability. As scientists who study sea level change and storm surge, we fear that Hurricane Sandy gave only a modest preview of the dangers to come, as we continue to power our global economy by burning fuels that pollute the air with heat-trapping gases.

This past summer, a disconcerting new scientific study by the climate scientist Michiel Schaeffer and colleagues — published in the journal Nature Climate Change — suggested that no matter how quickly we cut this pollution, we are unlikely to keep the seas from climbing less than five feet.

More than six million Americans live on land less than five feet above the local high tide. (Searchable maps and analyses are available at SurgingSeas.org for every low-lying coastal community in the contiguous United States.) Worse, rising seas raise the launching pad for storm surge, the thick wall of water that the wind can drive ahead of a storm. In a world with oceans that are five feet higher, our calculations show that New York City would average one flood as high as Hurricane Sandy’s about every 15 years, . . . 

Click here for the full story in the New York Times

« Commentary


By Holly M. Berkowitz (Iowa City/Iowa/52246)
on January 4th, 2013

Indeed we can take action now:

It is not difficult to make tiny decisions during a day to make tiny adjustments to behavior to cut daily privatized consumption of dirty fuels and dirty carbon emissions. . . . . .dirty carbon, sooty, dirty crud in our common air that dirty our food and lungs and world and life.

These tiny actions add up immensely . . . . as much as a flat-lined view in the city turns into a semi-circle on the ocean’s edge, a form of vision that can save not only one private life. . . .but the lives of millions, of billions, trillions of persons, organisms, lives, plants, animals, entire systems of God’s green nature now and . .. generations from now.

Do we care?

Of course we do.  Some just assume erroneously that each action of each day has no consequence.

Some assume erroneously that privatized profiteering justifies all at all costs. . . .but they are wrong, very, very, wrong, wrong scientifically, wrong mathematically, wrong economically, wrong egonomically, wrong morally.

Unfortunately, moral laws of reciprocity give back to us our actions. . . . positive actions causing living things to grow upwards toward light slowly to lift all up.. . . .but negative actions suck all down easy, cheap, quick.

Unfortunately, the dirty fuels industry has held Washington, D.C. and most of America hostage with the assumption that privatized profiteering for dirty fuel CEOs justifies all.  But it does not.

And the dirty fuel industry needs to help U.S. now to move our dollars from a catastrophic future that we caused. . . .to a more positive, cleaner, safer, more productive future of, by, for all . . . .by investing now together into a cleaner, more efficient and profitable renewable energy infrastructure. . . . .especially for wind and solar with a global grid because those 2 powers work together synergistically around the world to power us so that we can play. . . . instead of mopping up mud and dead bodies.

Please contact our leaders, your public representatives in your state capitol, in Washington DC and around the world. .. . and private CEOs to invest now yesterday asap immediately in a more efficient, cleaner renewable energy infrastructure, education and use to free us from dirty fuels and oil wars.

If we both reduce our use of dirty fuels and also invest in renewable energy infrastructure, education, research, development, innovation and use now .. .with wasted energy surrounding us daily. . . . .to wean us from dirty fuels, yes we can easily reverse our course into catastrophic, more frequent and severe superstorms and rising seas. 

Iowa has already shown that economy and environment are linked intimately . . . . and if we nurture our environment, it will nurture us.

We can and we will save our selves from our selves.


Reply to this comment

Name (required):
Email (required):
Enter the word "climate" in the box below:

[+] View our comment guidelines.

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until reviewed by Climate Central staff. Thank you for your patience.