For those who don't live on a seacoast, rising oceans mean little -- unless you put the issue in dollars and cents terms. Tim Radford, who was the science editor for The Guardian for twenty five years, does just that:
The rising seas’ cost may be $27 trillion a year in U.S. dollars for the world by 2100 if it fails to meet the UN’s 2ºC global warming limit by then, with sea level rise of, at its worst, almost six feet (nearly two meters), new research says.
A study led by the UK’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC) says the worldwide cost of flooding caused by rising sea levels, at their median level, could by 2100 be $14 trillion, if governments miss the United Nations target of keeping the rise in global temperatures, caused by unremitting fossil fuel use, to less than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. But the extent and cost could be much higher.
It's not just that the financial costs are staggering. Huge segments of humanity are looking into the maw catastrophe:
Svetlana Jevrejeva of the NOC is the study’s lead author. She said: “More than 600 million people live in low-elevation coastal areas, less than 10 meters above sea level. In a warming climate, global sea level will rise due to the melting of land-based glaciers and ice sheets, and from the thermal expansion of ocean waters. So sea level rise is one of the most damaging aspects of our warming climate.”
But, more than that, the poorest among us will pay the most:
Using World Bank income groups (high, upper-middle, lower-middle and low-income countries), they then assessed the impact of sea level rise in coastal areas from a global perspective.
The researchers also found that it was upper-middle income countries such as China that would see the largest increase in flood costs, while the richest ones would suffer the least, because of the high levels of protection infrastructure they already enjoyed. The research is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
So we in the West blindly stumble into the future. An American president claims it's all a hoax. And, besides, wealth has its privileges.
Image: Progressive Charlestown