By David L. Brown
One of the many predictions of those who study the likely effects of global warming is that oceans will rise and swallow up low-lying lands. Climate change nay-sayers label this as nothing but scare mongering. I guess they haven’t been in Venice, Italy lately where it is not uncommon to see scenes such as this:
Sidewalk cafe is flooded as water covers St. Marks Square in Venice.
Be assured that this picture is not atypical in Venice these days. Klaus Fischel, a photographer friend of mine who made the above picture, has been to Venice twice in the past year and each time made pictures very similar to this one. There are now raised wooden platforms to allow pedestrians to move around the center of this fabled city, as in this photo:
The fact is that the ocean is slowly rising, not only in Venice but everywhere sea meets land. Remember that while we hear of many “seas” and “oceans,” all of these are only parts of one great body of water that covers 70 percent of the globe, something we might call Earth Ocean.
The Earth Ocean is rising for two major reasons, both related to global warming. First, of course, is the fact that glaciers and ice sheets are melting, pouring their waters into the seas. Second, water expands as it grows warmer so as the Earth Ocean heats up it also rises up.
There are vast numbers of humans that live near the edge of the Earth Ocean, some of them like Venice are virtually at or even slightly below the sea level, and others such as New Orleans and many parts of The Netherlands even lower. As the Earth Ocean continues to rise, millions will be forced to leave their homelands. For example, should the waters rise by 20 feet, more than 60 million people in India and Bangladesh will become “climate refugees.”
But that is something that may or may not happen, sometime in the distant future … right? Well, no, it is an ongoing process and according to an article today in the British newspaper The Independent, the first inhabited island has now disappeared beneath the waters displacing about 10,000 people. Here is an excerpt (read it all here):
Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India’s part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.
As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.
Eight years ago, as exclusively reported in The Independent on Sunday, the first uninhabited islands – in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati – vanished beneath the waves. The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, have been evacuated as a precaution, but the land still juts above the sea. The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented.
It has been officially recorded in a six-year study of the Sunderbans by researchers at Calcutta’s Jadavpur University. So remote is the island that the researchers first learned of its submergence, and that of an uninhabited neighbouring island, Suparibhanga, when they saw they had vanished from satellite pictures.
The article quotes Dr Sugata Hazra, director of the unitersity’s School of Oceanographic Studies, who said that several other islands in the region are expected to become submerged “in a matter of some years,” displacing another 70,000 people not to mention the habitat of about 400 surviving tigers and other indigenous wildlife. As native islanders flee the rising waters, a kind of domino effect is beginning to emerge, as hinted by this graf:
Refugees from the vanished Lohachara island and the disappearing Ghoramara island have fled to Sagar, but this island has already lost 7,500 acres of land to the sea. In all, a dozen islands, home to 70,000 people, are in danger of being submerged by the rising seas.
Unfortunately, the Earth Ocean is poised to continue to cover dry land and the trend is an accelerating one. There is ample evidence that the Arctic Ice Cap may soon be gone, and as the open waters absorb more solar heat the already melting Greenland Ice Sheet will be yielding an increasing stream of water.
One of the best pieces of advice for savvy real estate investors today might be to resist the temptation to buy oceanfront properties.
Postscript: This article poses a striking contrast to the one below, posted earlier today by co-contributor Val Germann. It seems that water is a problem in more ways than one, as drought stalks the land in some places just as the Earth Ocean rises ever higher to drown coastal regions. Interesting times we live in, of that there is no doubt.