Scientists have projected that the Earth’s oceans could rise by between 2 and 5 feet within the next 80 years. This will prove to be detrimental for citizens of island nations, such as the people of Kiribati and especially the inhabitants of the Maldives. The Maldives is the lowest-lying nation in the world; this means that if seas were to rise just 3 feet, the whole nation would cease to exist. Without homes, the people of the Maldives (a population of over 400,000 residents) would need to relocate — something that would not be easy to accomplish.
You may be wondering how exactly this will affect Americans. First, the Maldives and the US have had diplomatic relations since 1966 and have had economic ties with one another for decades. Additionally, the Maldives has opened itself to US investment through its tourism and business sectors, meaning that American investors’ money will disappear along with the island. The scary part is that it is not just the dozens of small island nations being affected, rather it is the whole world being affected: even the US will be directly damaged by rising sea levels. Coastal communities, especially those in Florida, are highly susceptible to rising sea levels. The rising sea levels are causing chronic flooding, forcing residents to move away because of the uninhabitable conditions. With a 3 foot increase in ocean levels, more than 4 million Americans will be severely affected.
Why are rising sea levels a problem?
- When the ocean levels rise, saltwater moves inland. This is dangerous because it poisons crops, causing massive amounts of catastrophe to the economies of coastal communities. Additionally, when salt water moves inland, it begins to leak into freshwater sources. This is dangerous because people rely on wells for drinking water and will be forced to find new sources of freshwater.
- Rising sea levels cause flooding and can break the infrastructure in cities, such as buildings, roads, and houses. This endangers lives while also hurting the economy.
The sea levels are rising at an alarming rate because of the melting of the polar ice caps. When the ice caps melt, the water that used to be ice goes directly into the ocean, increasing the volume of the ocean. This means that Arctic animals are also losing their homes because of the rapidly decreasing ice mass.
In the US, roads are being raised, flood gates are being built, and seawalls are being repaired. However, this is only a temporary solution; people must work together to ensure that the ice caps stop melting. Nations like Finland are at the forefront of the fight for the Earth. Finland was given the highest Environmental Performance Index (a higher score indicates a more environmentally-friendly nation) while the US was ranked as the 26th most environmentally-friendly nation. Both nations are highly developed, but Finland’s commitment to becoming a carbon-neutral nation by 2050 is very apparent; 25% of Finland’s energy comes from renewable energy sources compared to 14% in the US.
If we are to save the polar ice caps and our own cities before it is too late, we must take action and try to reduce our carbon footprint. This may seem like a daunting task, but every action counts. Taking public transportation or walking/biking instead of driving can have great benefits for the environment. In order to save energy (and money), we can turn off lights when they are not in use. With 50% of all produce in the US being thrown away, we must find ways to waste less food; doing so will be beneficial as it will save energy and money in the long run.