Sea level rise will happen no matter what we do. Even if we stopped all carbon dioxide emissions today, the seas would rise one meter by 2050 and three meters by 2100. Thisnot drought, species extinction, or excessive heat waveswill be the most catastrophic effect of global warming. And it won’t simply redraw our coastlinesagriculture, electrical and fiber optic systems, and shipping will be changed forever. As icebound regions melt, new sources of oil, gas, minerals, and arable land will be revealed, as will fierce geopolitical battles over who owns the rights to them.
In The Flooded Earth, species extinction expert Peter Ward describes in intricate detail what our world will look like in 2050, 2100, 2300, and beyonda blueprint for a foreseeable future. Ward also explains what politicians and policymakers around the world should be doing now to head off the worst consequences of an inevitable transformation.
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One of the more confusing aspects of the IPCC report was how far oceans will rise. The numbers in the report were not very worrisome, but many scientists said the seas could rise much further. Peter Ward tries to bring some clarity to the confusion. He says anything over 5 feet is beyond civilizations ability to deter and thus many places will be abandoned. Certain hot spots like Bangladesh, Holland, San Francisco, Venice, New Orleans and southern Florida make appearances as Ward envisions what they could look like in the future. His book is not a prediction. He offers instead scenarios that are within the realm of possibility because *they have happened before*. The geological record is chock full of evidence of rapidly rising seas. This is not debateable, it's as clear as a dinosaur bone (although some people deny dinosaurs existed). How exactly our future unfolds no one knows, Ward doesn't know either, but he looks at parallels between the past and present atmosphere and it's not pretty. One thing we are certain of however, as CO2 levels rise, so do the oceans.25% of CO2 released by humans stays in the atmosphere for over 50,000 years, longer than the half-life of radiation. It's a permanent gift to the future and how it impacts sea level rise is significant - actions today will impact the future for a very long time. Oceans are currently rising 2mm a year, this is well documented. About 10,000 years ago they were rising at 2 inches per year, or 16 feet a century - again, well documented and not debated. The earth is very capable of doing it again. No one is saying 16' in a century *will* happen, in fact it's very unlikely, but oceans have risen and fallen very often in the past and this process is tied to CO2 levels in the atmosphere, which is expected to be at levels way beyond anything seen in millions of years. Could seas rise that far or fast? They already have. This is ultimately the message by Ward - he makes no *prediction* that it *will* happen, he offers scenarios informed by what has happened, and suggests there are enough parallels with those events in the past with the present to be concerned. Anyone who denies that position is either intellectually dishonest or not operating in good faith.My quibbles with the book is it written breathlessly, parts repeat, it could have used better editing to enhance the killer points. I read it on a Kindle and was surprised when it was over at 70% - the remaining 30% is notes, bibliography and index [one of the disadvantages of a scroll-like kindle, versus a codex-like book, is its hard to find where a book proper ends, it sneaks up on you]. Overall a quick and sometimes entertaining read about a serious subject. It will no doubt bring out the deniers who will misrepresent it, but if your at all interested in what the possibilities of sea level rise are, this is a good book to look at.read more
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Drawing from research on polar melting and current climate studies, paleontologist and NASA astrobiologist Ward (Under a Green Sky) depicts grim scenarios of the future as the ice caps melt away. Ward imagines Canadian indigenous people waging guerrilla warfare in 2030 on a government poisoning their bodies and ancestral lands with tars sands mining; Miami in 2120 as a lawless island abandoned by a federal government overwhelmed with building dikes to protect less doomed cities; topsoil from a dried-out Midwest being shipped in 2515 to an Antarctic Freehold State, one of the few locations where crops could still be grown; Bangladeshi refugees, fleeing their flooded nation after a 24-foot sea rise in 3004, being gunned down by Indian Border Security Forces. Ward assures us that it doesn't have to be this way and attempts a feeble optimism. He recommends a combination of lifestyle changes and technical solutions, although he warns that the latter are fraught with unknown perils. This is indisputably important information, but Ward's conclusion that hope is "perhaps itself a goal," makes for a depressing read. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved