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Scientists: Rising Sea Levels to Continue

Scientists say sea levels are rising and will continue to do so into the future. Coastal communities around the world are already experiencing the impact of rising seas. Many cities and towns are taking steps to deal with this new reality.

Photographers have taken pictures to document those efforts. Their photos are part of an exhibit called "Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change." It can be seen at the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach, California. There, experts explain the causes of the rising seas and how people are trying to adapt to the changes.

Disastrous storms and floods could be a new reality around the world. That is the opinion of oceanographer Jerry Schubel. He is president of the Aquarium of the Pacific.

“Global climate change is resulting in rising seas, coastal flooding and increasingly powerful storm surges.”

A video produced by the aquarium shows how water levels are rising. It also shows how low-lying places that flood historically are the areas most vulnerable to the sea level change. Dan Cayan studies weather conditions for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. He says sea levels are rising at a higher rate now than a few years ago.

“In the last couple of decades it’s risen at a greater rate. And, we think very confidently that it will accelerate in the next several decades.”

Scientists estimate that, by the end of the century, sea levels around the world could rise by more than a meter and could continue to rise. Mr. Cayan says heat-trapping greenhouse gasses are causing temperatures to rise.

”Sea level rise will not end in 2100. It’s an ongoing problem, as the planet adjusts to a new, essentially a new energy balance because of greenhouse gases.”

He adds that this pollution is warming the planet, and causing ice at the North and South Poles to melt.

“And as the climate warms, the potential for unleashing stored water on Earth, largely in Greenland, Antarctica, holds a lot of potential sea level rise in the future."

Frances Anderton serves as guest curator of the Sink or Swim exhibit. She says the show explores how people are affected by flooding and how they are adapting to the rising water levels.

“We have the issue of the rising seas but that is coupled with our desire to live on coast lines. There is an intense level of development on coastlines.”

One picture in the exhibit shows students attending a floating school on a wooden boat. Jonas Bendiksen took the picture in Bangladesh. A photo from the Netherlands, taken by Iwan Baan, shows a more high-tech floating building: a modern houseboat made of aluminum and glass.

Scientists say city planners in coastal communities must continue to come up with new ways to adapt to rising seas. They say this can be done through futuristic buildings, roads and other infrastructure. They say all these structures need to withstand damaging fierce storms and limit human suffering.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Elizabeth Lee reported on this story from Long Beach, California. Mario Ritter adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

impact – n. a powerful or major influence or effect

adapt – v. to change behavior so that it is easier to live in a particular place or situation

vulnerable – adj. open to attack, harm or damage

futuristic – adj. very modern, design that looks like something from the future

Do you live near the ocean? Tell us if you are being affected by rising sea levels in the comment section.

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