Why is such an emphasis placed on sea level rise?? As this can be devastating in itself, it can be looked at as a great economic opportunity to put people to work preparing our coastal areas for the inevitable, but slowly progressing future situation.

Isn't the disruption of ocean currents (as portrayed in "Day After Tomorrow" or in Peter Ward's Medea hypothesis (hydrogen sulfide poisoning)) even more serious?

There are also major consequences such as fresh water shortage, ocean acidification, decrease in biodiversity, etc. etc. Some of the worst consequences may be ones we haven't even thought of yet.

I feel that we are oversimplifying the message to the public by focusing on sea level rise. Am I wrong??

  • $\begingroup$ I'd speculate that sea level rise is the easiest consequence for the general public to understand. The others are more difficult concepts to get one's head around. In any case, I'm not sure any answers to this question would be anything but opinion based. $\endgroup$
    – BillDOe
    Jun 9 '19 at 23:06

Try asking Pacific Islanders that question. Most Pacific islands are only a few meters above sea. Some have already had their fresh water sources, destroyed by rising sea levels. Most of these people are in danger of losing the land beneath their feet & becoming environmental refugees.

Then there is Bangladesh, a low lying country, without any hard rock, where gravel is made by baking clay. It already is losing significant parts of the country to coastal erosion, some of which was farmland.

If you're not concerned about Pacific islanders or Bangladeshis, then how about Europeans? Significant portions of the Netherlands are already below sea level, sustained by a system of dykes and sea walls. Some of theses are in danger of being overwhelmed by rising oceans and the land being lost.

If you're not concerned about Europeans, then how about Americans? Will Americans want to pay for system of sea walls to protect New Orleans? It already has issues trying to build a wall along its border with Mexico, but that's another issue.

Rising sea levels will inundate land with salty sea water and it cause the lose of softer coastal terrain to erosion, such as limestone cliff terrain in Britain.

The other thing that rarely gets mentioned is the affect that lost coastal habitats, such as mangroves, will have on non-human life. As if human life is the only form of life that matters on the planet and that nature is irrelevant. Humans need nature more than nature needs humans. Some of these habitats are critical to the some fish species and other life forms.


Sea level is a simple single number which stands in for a host of effects. Also much of the world's population lives on the coast (10% population in 2% of land area).

Other effects from sea level rise:

  • Increased risk of flooding during storm surge
  • Salwater intrusion in bodies close to sea water, e.g. Amazon, everglades, coastal aquifers (Egypt, California)
  • Changing ocean currents from freshwater flux (partial cause of sea leve rise)
  • Changing coastal processes (erosion, sand deposition)

Also when drawing the relationship between CO2 concentration and climate impact, we can point directly to the CO2 and global land ice volume (conversely sea level) relationship. This has been worked out in measurements from ice cores, marine cores, and sea level proxies (e.g. corals, paleo-shorelines).

You're right there are other issues but sea level is the most concrete, measurable, and globally impactful.


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