Melting Ice and Rising Sea Levels: What Cities Could We Lose?
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The human obsession with consumerism and cheap trinkets could render countless people homeless — or worse. Scientists warn that at least 800 million people already face increased flood risk from storm surges and rising seas, even if we keep rising global temperatures below 2 degrees.
Should coastal cities sink, the resulting environmental devastation will affect more than those in such regions. Countless chemicals from manufacturing plants and mass transit systems will spill into waterways, rendering them unsafe for use. What areas are at risk from melting ice and rising sea levels — what do we stand to lose?
The Increasingly Complex Problem of Melting Ice and Rising Sea Levels
People need to start looking at the planet as one giant living organism. Human beings are to earth what our intestinal bacteria are to our bodies. Everything is fine when things stay in balance, but too much of the wrong, industrial-polluting kind can imperil the life of the very organism required for continued existence.
Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t only impact those regions responsible for causing the most pollution. For example, much of West Africa is sinking. Parts of the coast lose more than 30 meters of land every year.
However, despite being the second largest continent, Africa accounts for only a paltry 3.8% of global greenhouse emissions. China contributes 23% and the U.S. 19%. Many people in affected African regions lack the economic resources to go elsewhere — the actions of people on the other side of the world directly impact their ability to earn a livelihood and feed their families.
Overall, Asian cities will suffer the most from climate change, although any nation with a shoreline faces threats. Even landlocked countries will feel the impact of rising temperatures and increased migration as more people become displaced, straining their resources.
8 Cities We Could Lose to Melting Ice and Rising Sea Levels?
What could go under if global authorities don’t take swift action now? The following cities could become soggy relics of a distant past.
1. Miami, USA
Forget heading to Miami Beach for spring break after 2100. You could come back with a nasty bacterial infection from the destroyed drainage and septic systems, leaving you wading through a river of filth.
While the city has sea walls and pumps that send water back to the ocean, that isn’t the only problem facing this region. It sits on porous limestone, meaning that rising waters will creep up from underneath no matter how sturdy the Army Corps of Engineers designs a break around the shore.
2. Shanghai, China
China could see 43 million people washed away or driven inland by rising waters by 2100. Already, floodwaters have trapped some in subways improperly designed for letting waters drain. Seawalls and levees help protect coastal communities but can only do so much.
Shanghai means “the city by the sea.” Another issue is that it lies on the estuary of the Yangtze River, which is also impacted by rising waters.
3. Osaka, Japan
Rising waters could impact up to 5.2 million people in Osaka. The island nation of Japan is uniquely vulnerable to climate change because water surrounds it on every side. Rising sea levels could leave a third of the country stranded.
4. Alexandria, Egypt
Alexandria, Egypt, has seen its share of historical strife, including the destruction of the Great Library. However, rising sea levels could leave the region permanently submerged. The city has numerous slums, and many of the people displaced by the 2015 flood still have yet to find adequate housing.
5. Savannah, USA
Savannah has a problem with the ocean and rivers. It’s a hurricane hotspot, but it also lies between the Savannah and Ogeechee Rivers. Experts project that the area could see “once-in-a-century” floods every year after 2050.
6. Amsterdam, Netherlands
This area receives renown for its dikes and windmills that helped reclaim it from the sea in the past. It’s dubious that they will be enough to stop the effects of climate change. The region lies below sea level, putting it at severe risk from rising waters.l
7. Venice, Italy
If you dream of floating serenely down a canal while your “driver” serenades you with Italian tunes as you tour Venice, you should probably book your trip soon. This region’s unique layout makes it vulnerable to rising sea levels. Already, high tides inundate this UNESCO World Heritage Site more frequently than ever.
8. New Orleans, USA
Few Americans who lived through it can forget Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. Unfortunately, New Orleans faces ongoing threats from melting ice and rising sea levels. Marie Laveau’s spirit might not be too happy floating around in a watery grave — but it could happen without swift intervention.
What Cities Could We Lose to Melting Ice and Rising Sea Levels?
Melting ice and rising sea levels threaten many cities. The eight above could end up underwater by 2100 or sooner if governments and individuals fail to act.
Everyone must get behind the movement to save the planet. If enough people change their practices in time, people can still avoid much of the destruction.
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About the author
Steve is the Managing Editor of Environment.co and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.