Climate change is a topic that has been discussed widely in recent years, and for good reason. It is an issue that affects everyone, regardless of their geographical location or social status. One of the most visible effects of climate change is the rise in sea levels, which has been linked to the warming of the Earth’s oceans. Let’s explore the relationship between climate change and sea level rise, and what we can do to mitigate its effects and the accompanying risks.
The Earth’s climate has always been in a state of flux, but the current changes we are experiencing are different. They are happening at an unprecedented rate, and the evidence suggests that human activity is largely responsible. The burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and other human activities have led to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and cause temperatures to rise.
According to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, roughly one-third of the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by human activities is absorbed by the ocean. While this process offsets some climate impacts, when carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, it forms carbonic acid and decreases the pH of the water. Known as ocean acidification, this fundamental change in ocean chemistry makes it harder for calcifying organisms such as corals, shellfish, and some plankton (the base of the marine food web) to grow, reproduce, and create their protective shells and skeletons.
Additionally, the pH of the ocean is now around 8.1, representing a 25 percent increase in acidity. As the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continues to climb, seawater acidity could drop to 7.8 by 2100. Ongoing ocean acidification will threaten vital ocean habitats and people who depend on fishing and aquaculture for food and income.
One of the most visible effects of this warming is the melting of glaciers and ice caps, which are located mainly at the Earth’s poles. As these ice masses melt, they add more water to the oceans, causing sea levels to rise. In addition, warmer ocean temperatures cause seawater to expand, further contributing to sea level rise.
The effects of sea level rise are widespread and significant. Low-lying areas such as small island nations, coastal regions, and deltas are particularly vulnerable. These areas are at risk of flooding and erosion, which can cause damage to homes and infrastructure, as well as threaten the lives and livelihoods of the people who live there. In addition, rising sea levels can contaminate freshwater supplies, cause saltwater intrusion into agricultural lands, and increase the risk of storm surges.
Risk and Opportunities
According to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, “The impact of rising seas is already creating new sources of instability and conflict.” He noted that “some nations’ coastlines have already seen triple the average rate of sea level rise in the coming decades, low-lying communities – and entire countries – could disappear forever causing “a mass exodus of entire populations on a biblical scale, and we would see ever-fiercer competition for fresh water, land and other resources.”
This is a risk not only to populations but of course to businesses, however that also brings about opportunities. Such as transitioning to renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. We can also adopt sustainable land use practices, such as reforestation and conservation, which can help to sequester carbon and reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Areas that could see growth:
Renewable energy: As governments and businesses move towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, there is a growing demand for renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro power.
Sustainable agriculture: Climate change and sea level rise can disrupt traditional agriculture practices, leading to decreased productivity and crop yields. Sustainable agriculture practices that adapt to these changes, such as vertical farming or aquaponics, can provide business opportunities.
Water management: As sea levels rise, businesses that provide water management solutions, such as flood control or water recycling, will be in high demand.
Coastal real estate development: Although sea level rise is a threat to coastal areas, it also presents an opportunity for real estate development that is resilient to these changes. Innovative design and construction practices can allow for the development of sustainable and profitable coastal properties.
Climate adaptation consulting: With the increasing impact of climate change, businesses and governments are seeking guidance on how to adapt to these changes. Consulting firms that specialize in climate adaptation can offer valuable services.
Green transportation: As emissions regulations become stricter, there is a growing demand for low-emission vehicles and transportation solutions. Businesses that specialize in electric vehicles, public transportation, or car-sharing services are well-positioned to take advantage of this trend.
Climate-friendly tourism: Sustainable tourism practices that focus on conservation and environmentally friendly activities can provide unique business opportunities in areas that are impacted by sea level rise.
The relationship between climate change and sea level rise is clear. As the Earth’s temperature continues to rise, we can expect to see sea levels rise as well, with significant consequences for low-lying areas around the world. Businesses that are able to adapt to the changing climate and offer sustainable solutions will be well-positioned to take advantage of these opportunities.
Interested in learning how your business can learn more about mitigating risk and planning the future climate scenarios? Talk to Weather Source. Our Climate Intelligence Platform and Risk products help businesses navigate and prepare for evolving risks and opportunities now and into the future.