The Sea is Rising: Becoming Resilient Against the Inevitable

OregonCoastOnce again, another report on climate change states sea levels are rising and that coastal flooding inundation is accelerating faster than expected and will become a common occurrence by 2050. Global warming has raised sea level about eight inches since 1880 and scientists expect 20 to 80 more inches this century. Dr. Strauss, of the nonprofit organization, Climate Central, did original research for this sea level project that was funded entirely by foundations. The study makes mid-range sea level projections of 1-8 inches by 2030, and 4-19 inches by 2050, depending upon location across the contiguous 48 states. The report, “Surging Seas”, released on March 14th, 2012, is an elaborate analysis that estimates the proportion of the United States population at risk for flooding which is virtually everyone who lives on any coast of the United States, about 3.7 million people.

This Internet-published report provides a package of information including access where people can search, by their own zip code, to see their own risk of coastal flooding in their area because some states, like Florida, are at high risk. This visualization is a key step in a process for understanding the risk and impact on your community and shows you what you are dealing with so you can participate in building resiliency in your community. Many communities do not have adequate plans in place to control inundation or flooding in their area. Coastal lands are a vast resource. Coastal communities support 81% of the United States population and generate 83% of the United States gross domestic product.

Climate change reports are time-sensitive with the needs for analysis to take place within days or weeks, not years. But that would require more people and government backing. In 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) vied for reorganization to include climate forecasting for businesses and were blocked by Republicans in the House of Representatives. The political climate toward climate science is cold and with federal budgets shrinking, funding is tight.

The calculation of flooding in your area is in simple terms, if you live in an area that is within 3.3 feet of the mean high tide level, you live in a zone of 3.7 million people who will be affected by the oceans rise. Now, is the time to act because the window of opportunity is closing and communities have to be prepared.

Ask yourself these questions, “What changes are you seeing and experiencing in your surrounding environments?” and “What do you think the impacts of these changes will be in relation to rising sea levels?” 

If your community provides a social media outlet for information, engage in it to be informed, share your thoughts and share similar concerns about your community. Major communities in this country have been able to build coalitions even though they serve different interests, it is important to contribute innovative ideas and look at the challenges as opportunities to be agents of change because the real threat of inundation in your coastal community can no longer be ignored.

If you would like to start a dialogue in your community to spread the message of inundation by rising sea levels and building resiliency in your community by planning, NOAA Coastal Services Center – Digital Coast provides the Coastal Inundation Toolkit, which was developed to help communities understand and address coastal inundation issues. Even if you do not live on a coastline, you will be affected by climate change.

Photo Credit: Shebola100 Photography

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