Earth911 talks with oceanographer John Englander, author of the new book Moving to Higher Ground: Rising Sea Level and the Path Forward. His 2014 TED Talk provides stark examples of the close relationship between CO2, climate temperature, and coastlines — Florida was half the size it is now during the last warm period in Earth’s history and twice the size it is today during the last Ice Age. In his new book, Englander describes the challenges of sea level rise (SLR) and urges humans to prepare to adapt to rising oceans, because it is too late to stop significant SLR along U.S. and global coastlines. Those changes have dramatic implications for government, business, the global supply chain, and our own neighborhoods.
Englander explains how the increased surface of a warming ocean will amplify extreme weather events we are already seeing in the form of wildfires, flooding, and drought. He suggests that governments need to discourage continued building along coasts by reducing flood insurance subsidies so that people are not displaced in a disorderly way but can plan for living on higher ground. He urges people to think in terms of short (30 years), mid-term (50 years) and long-term (100 years) timeframes to understand their SLR risk. But he argues that governments and business need to act today to be ready for disruptions from the already higher sea levels around the planet. He warns that accelerated ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica could lead to 5 feet or as much as 10 feet of SLR by 2050. We finish the conversation by discussing strategies for cooling the planet to prevent further damage, including the potential for geoengineering the atmosphere to reflect more sunlight back into space and carbon capture and sequestration technology.
John Englander’s previous book, High Tide On Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis, jump-started the public conversation about SLR in 2012 and Moving to Higher Ground: Rising Sea Level and the Path Forward, which was released this week, lays out ideas about how we can respond and adapt to rising seas.