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Essay: The threat of rising sea levels

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  • Published: 22 February 2023*
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Rising sea levels pose a huge threat to the well-being of all of mankind and for future generations to come. For millions of years, Earth’s climate was dominated by recurring ice age cycles, which consisted of long cool periods (glacials) where giant glaciers grew on the continental land masses at, and near, the Earth’s poles. With most of the water on Earth frozen, sea levels were consistently low during this time. When the Earth would come in closer range of the Sun during its orbit, the glaciers would melt, causing sea levels to slowly rise again. This was a consistent cycle. However, the presence of humans on the Earth has drastically disrupted this cycle. Through pollution and carbon emissions, humans have been producing greenhouse gases that are trapping heat inside of Earth’s atmosphere from escaping into space. This trapped heat that is causing the Earth’s surface temperature to rise is not only preventing glaciers in the poles to form, but it is also making them melt at an alarming rate, which is causing sea levels to rise. According to Natural Geographic, “the annual rate of rise over the past 20 years has been 0.13 inches (3.2 millimeters) a year, roughly twice the average speed of the preceding 80 years.” The rising sea level due to the inaction of current and previous generations is an injustice to all future generations because they will suffer immense social and economic consequences.

History of rising sea levels prior to humanity

Global sea levels have varied greatly throughout the history of the Earth. The main factors affecting the sea level are the amount of water that is available and the shape of the oceans’ basins. For millions of years, the climate was dominated by the ice age cycles, the creation and melting of monumental glaciers on Earth. The sea level has fluctuated up to differences between 1000 and 1300 feet over the course of time. The current sea level is about 425 feet higher than the historical minimum, and more than 650 feet lower than the historical maximum, about 100 million years ago.()()() This information may suggest that the Earth simply goes through cool and warm periods, and the rise and fall of sea levels are natural cycles that cannot be influenced, controlled, or prevented. However, evidence further demonstrates that humans are playing a huge role in the increasing temperature of the Earth and are causing heat to remain trapped inside the atmosphere.

How the climate begins to change when humans come

It is without question that the arrival of humanity has greatly perpetuated the rising of the sea levels. National Geographic says that, “Over the past century, the burning of fossil fuels and other human and natural activities has released enormous amounts of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. These emissions have caused the Earth’s surface temperature to rise, and the oceans absorb about 80 percent of this additional heat.” The oldest tide gauges and coastal sediment preserved beneath swamps and marshes show that sea level began to rise around 1850, which is right around the time people started burning coal to propel steam engine trains, and it hasn’t stopped since. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists: Science for a Healthy Planet and Safer World,  a study from 2016 found that without the emissions from burning coal and oil, there is very little likelihood that 13 out of the 15 warmest years on record would all have happened. Carbon dioxide is the main heat-trapping gas which is causing the Earth’s surface temperature to rise. The presence of carbon dioxide in today’s atmosphere is extremely higher than during the pre-industrial age. This explains why glaciers are melting at increased rates and why the sea level is continually rising. It is evident that humans are a major cause for rising sea levels.

How it has progressed over the years- continues to get worse and nothing is being done

Sea level rising is caused by three main factors: thermal expansion, melting glaciers and polar ice caps, and ice loss from Greenland and West Antarctica. The volume of the ocean itself is expanding as the water warms, and glaciers and ice sheets are adding water to the ocean. Massive ice sheets and glaciers in Greenland and West Antarctica are melting at an accelerated pace due to increased heat. National Geographic states, “Scientists also believe meltwater from above and seawater from below is seeping beneath Greenland’s and West Antarctica’s ice sheets, effectively lubricating ice streams and causing them to move more quickly into the sea. Higher sea temperatures are causing the massive ice shelves that extend out from Antarctica to melt from below, weaken, and break off.” “Human fingerprints”, a way in which to determine changes occurring in the atmosphere and oceans caused by humans, are appearing in a diverse range of records and reports. The natural patterns of Earth’s climate have been altered by human interference, and it is continuing to worsen. The main problem that humans are committing is the emission of carbons into the atmosphere, which occurs when oil, gas, and coal are burned, or when forests are burned or cut down. These “human climate drivers”, which are heat-trapping emissions such as carbon dioxide, aerosols, and soot, are driving temperatures to rise. The Union of Concerned Scientists: Science for a Healthy Planet and Safer World concluded that, “the dramatic accumulation of carbon from human sources is by far the largest climate change driver over the past half century”. High concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are leading to the factors of rising sea level to occur at dramatic rates that will not be slowing down unless action is taken.

What the effects are rn and what it will be if nothing is done

Rising sea levels are of great concern for multitudes of people. A small increase in sea level can have devastating impacts on those living in coastal communities. According to Rebecca Lindsey, in her article for climate.gov, states, “In the United States, almost 40 percent of the population lives in relatively high population-density coastal areas.” Looking at the whole world, 8 out 10 of the world’s most populated cities are near a coastline. Continuous emissions of greenhouse gases are warming the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans and melting its ice, causing the rate of sea level rise to increase. According to Brandon Miller, a CNN meteorologist, “This acceleration, driven mainly by accelerated melting in Greenland and Antarctica, has the potential to double the total sea level rise by 2100 as compared to projections that assume a constant rate, to more than 60 centimeters instead of about 30.” This is high enough to severely damage many cities along the East Coast of the US. If these emissions continue to occur and cause the sea level to rise, future generations of people will have to deal with catastrophic consequences.

Future generation is screwed cuz of us

Sea level plays a gigantic role in flooding, shoreline erosion, agricultural soil contamination, and hazards from storms. Hundreds of millions of people live in areas that are susceptible to flooding if sea levels were to continue to rise at this rate. Higher sea levels would force them from their homes, displacing them and causing them to lose everything that they have. In coastline cities, rising sea levels can damage infrastructure used for jobs and industries. Roads, bridges, and power plants are all at extreme risk if sea levels are to keep rising at this rate. Destructive storms, like hurricanes, would be able to move farther inland if sea levels were to rise more. A rising sea level is also detrimental to many aquatic organisms’ habitats and ecosystems as well. It is of the utmost importance to try and slow down the rate at which the sea level is rising in order to prevent the dangerous problems that it presents for future generations.

Reverse the rising sea

In order to avoid these catastrophic problems, it is in the best interest of all people to work towards finding solutions to counteract the rising sea level. Humans are causing the problems, which means humans can solve the problems. It is not possible to completely eradicate all the global warming that has taken place due to carbon emissions, but with radical changes to reduce emissions and then adjust to life without these emissions, the greenhouse effect can be greatly slowed down and reduced. The best solution would be to abide to the Paris Agreement of 2015, which, explained by ucsusa.org, “calls for the reduction of carbon emissions to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius.” To reach that goal, immediate and sustained action must be taken by adopting technologies that increase energy efficiency, finding new sources of energy, and slowing down deforestation. If the world chooses to come together and forego industrial and economic motivations, global warming can most definitely be reduced. However, this is much easier said than done, and the odds that global warming and rising sea levels are slowed down, are unlikely.

Is it likely that these solutions will work/ be implemented?

If the world does not prevent the Earth from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius, then, according to Rebecca Leber, author for the New Republic, “it is said that this is the threshold where the impact of carbon emissions will be irreversible”. This threshold remains controversial because not only is it an arbitrary number, but is a bit unrealistic. Scott Barrett, representing Columbia University states, “I think that the two degree target was chosen more for political reasons than for true scientific reasons. The idea was to — if countries could agree on a collective target, that would mobilize the action needed to get the whole world to act together.” To reach this goal, there would have to be zero net carbon emissions before the end of the century. Currently, the world is nowhere near this goal as pollution continues to rise and emissions are still being churned out. However, it is of the utmost that the global temperature change remains below 2 degrees Celsius before pre-Industrial times because according to reports from the World Bank, a change in 4 degrees Celsius would be “devastating” and communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruptions, damage, and dislocation, with many of these risks spread unequally.” Food production and water supplies will fall while population rises, and human conflict will breakout. If the 2 degrees Celsius threshold is crossed, which it most likely will, it is absolutely necessary for countries to dial back on these emissions even more in the future before it’s too late and we are asking ourselves why we didn’t try to solve this problem sooner.


Rising sea levels pose an immediate, and absolutely dangerous threat to the well-being of people all across the world. It is a real problem, and is one caused by humans. It has been continually getting worse since the Industrial Age, and its effects are coming into fruition. If nothing is done, millions of people across the world will suffer from the consequences of the rising sea level. To slow down the rate at which the sea is ascending, is it of the utmost importance to cut back on carbon emissions to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trapping in heat and raising the temperature of the Earth. Spreading awareness and informing people of the issue is the most effective way to bring about change before it is too late. Governments, corporations, and industries need to lower their emissions so that global warming doesn’t reach the tipping point where the sea level is unable to be brought down, and people’s lives are destroyed. This problem can be fixed; we just have to care enough to try.

Works Cited









Things to change/fix:

· Works cited à do it correctly and use freaking easy bib

· It says 8-10 paragraphs not including your introduction and conclusion which means you really only have 7 paragraphs so add one more if you can

· Change all your topic sentences so that they all catch the reader’s attention

· I shortened your thesis to make it more concise

· Second paragraph about history à how do you know those facts and numbers? Do you need to cite them?

· Third paragraph “how climate begins” à that first fact that you include, after your introduce it then explain it after and why you used it. For example you can say, “This fact demonstrates, This means that, etc…” so basically analyze the quote and explain why this is good that you use it in your paper.

· Delete all the titles for each paragraph

· In paragraph called what the effects are rn à in the last sentences give examples of catastrophic events that could happen

· Each paragraph should be a little longer so try an


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