|Scenes from Norfolk|
The Republican Party and its candidates at the state and federal levels continue to deny that climate change is real and refuse to focus on taking necessary steps to lessen threats to coastal cities leaving cities and localities to struggle with solutions on their own. Here in Virginia, such denial is insanity as one of the most populous areas of the state, home of both the Navy's largest base, and the huge Virginia Port facility face a potentially frightening future if concrete steps are not taken. Now, as the New York Times reports, new climate models suggest that sea level rise will be even more rapid than previously thought. Here are some article highlights:
For half a century, climate scientists have seen the West Antarctic ice sheet, a remnant of the last ice age, as a sword of Damocles hanging over human civilization.
The great ice sheet, larger than Mexico, is thought to be potentially vulnerable to disintegration from a relatively small amount of global warming, and capable of raising the sea level by 12 feet or more should it break up. But researchers long assumed the worst effects would take hundreds — if not thousands — of years to occur.
Now, new research suggests the disaster scenario could play out much sooner.
Continued high emissions of heat-trapping gases could launch a disintegration of the ice sheet within decades, according to a study published Wednesday, heaving enough water into the ocean to raise the sea level as much as three feet by the end of this century.
With ice melting in other regions, too, the total rise of the sea could reach five or six feet by 2100, the researchers found. That is roughly twice the increase reported as a plausible worst-case scenario by a United Nations panel just three years ago, and so high it would likely provoke a profound crisis within the lifetimes of children being born today.
The situation would grow far worse beyond 2100, the researchers found, with the rise of the sea exceeding a pace of a foot per decade by the middle of the 22nd century. Scientists had documented such rates of increase in the geologic past, when far larger ice sheets were collapsing, but most of them had long assumed it would be impossible to reach rates so extreme with the smaller ice sheets of today.
“We are not saying this is definitely going to happen,” said David Pollard, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University and a co-author of the new paper. “But I think we are pointing out that there’s a danger, and it should receive a lot more attention.”
The long-term effect would likely be to drown the world’s coastlines, including many of its great cities.
New York City is nearly 400 years old; in the worst-case scenario conjured by the research, its chances of surviving another 400 years in anything like its present form would appear to be remote. Miami, New Orleans, London, Venice, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sydney, Australia, are all just as vulnerable as New York, or more so.
In principle, coastal defenses could be built to protect the densest cities, but experts believe it will be impossible to do that along all 95,000 miles of the American coastline, meaning that immense areas will most likely have to be abandoned to the rising sea.
Vulnerable parts of the higher, colder ice sheet of East Antarctica would eventually fall apart, too, and the result by the year 2500 would be 43 feet of sea level rise from Antarctica alone, with still more water coming from elsewhere, the computer estimated. In some areas, the shoreline would be likely to move inland by miles.
The paper published Wednesday does contain some good news. A far more stringent effort to limit emissions of greenhouse gases would stand a fairly good chance of saving West Antarctica from collapse, the scientists found. That aspect of their paper contrasts with other recent studies postulating that a gradual disintegration of West Antarctica may have already become unstoppable.
[T]he recent climate deal negotiated in Paris would not reduce emissions nearly enough to achieve that goal. That deal is to be formally signed by world leaders in a ceremony in New York next month, in a United Nations building that stands directly by the rising water.
As on so many issues, today's Republicans offer no solutions and prefer to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that disaster is not approaching and that faith in their mythical friend in the sky is the answer to everything.