Surf’s way, way up: Sea-level rise, explained
Close your eyes and imagine yourself at your favorite beach. Swells rise around your tanned hips. A bottle of beer and a joint are held safe and dry above your head. You’re sporting a revealing little bathing suit over a younger version of your hot self, airbrushed to perfection using the power of imagination. And there are no cops around to spoil the fun.
Now imagine what that beach would look like if the water was 15 feet higher. Your beer and your ganja are now full of saltwater, and you’re struggling just to keep your head above the waves. Unless your favorite beach is at the bottom of a cliff, nearby buildings are under water, taken over by invasive communities of pineapple-dwelling, square pants-wearing sponges.
That’s not some outrageous scenario dreamed up by liberal scientists with global warming agendas. (The sponge bit was admittedly outrageous, but you can blame me, not the scientists, for it.) No, it’s where sea levels were 120,000 years ago: 15 feet higher than they are today.
Fast forward to 20,000 years ago, when the world was nearing the end of an ice age. Vast stretches of today’s oceans were ice cubes, and as a result, sea levels were 400 feet lower than they are today. What now are tropical near-shore islands back then were frigid hills.
The seas rose again between 20,000 and 6,000 years ago. Then they started rising again early in the 19th century. (Whatever else was happening during the early 19th century, hmmm? A little polluting something called the Industrial Revolution, perhaps?) The seas have been rising ever since, and as a result, land is losing territory to the seas, which are eight inches higher now than they were in 1870.
Scientists can’t be sure how quickly or how badly the world is going to flood, but they have published a variety of estimates based on the amount of pollution we pump into the atmosphere in the coming years. All the scenarios are pretty apocalyptic, though we’ve factored out the possibility if sudden ice cap collapse, which would create an even more dramatic deluge. So what the hell: Have a little fun on the way down and choose your own adventure!
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