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Scientists sound alarm as growing threat looms over coastal states — here's what you need to know

"Along the coast, the damage would be extensive."

"Along the coast, the damage would be extensive."

Photo Credit: iStock

Rising ocean levels are a concern in many places worldwide, from islands in the South-West Pacific to canal-based cities like Venice in Italy.

In the United States, many coastal areas are preparing for this situation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has shared an interactive map of how the country could look after sea-level rises of as much as 10 feet.

What's happening?

In 2022, the NOAA's Sea Level Rise Technical Report detailed that pollution levels at the time meant a sea-level rise of 2 feet between 2020 and 2100 was increasingly likely.

The organization further warned that a failure to reduce planet-warming pollution from transportation, agriculture, industry, and other sources could increase the level to as much as seven feet during this time.

A rise of two feet would put coastal states all the way up the East and West Coasts, as well as Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama, at risk. Oregon is one state that could see a major impact.

As Oregon Live detailed, a 6-foot rise will submerge islands in the Columbia River, potentially completely covering Sauvie Island.  

"Along the coast, the damage would be extensive," Oregon Live noted. "Places like Warrenton, Seaside, and Toledo would also be unrecognizable and mostly immersed in water."

Why is sea-level rise concerning?

Higher water levels, first and foremost, put coastal communities at risk of severe flooding. This could destroy homes and businesses, make some areas unlivable, and put citizens in danger. 

Among the other major effects of sea-level rises are an increased possibility of extreme weather events, land loss and coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion and freshwater contamination, and climate migration, as detailed by the National Resources Defense Council.

What can be done to stop rising sea levels?

The biggest driver of rising sea levels is increasing global temperatures. As the NRDC noted, warmer weather is leading to 270 billion tons of ice mass being shed from the Greenland ice sheet every year. 

Oceans also absorb heat remarkably quickly, taking in around 90% of excess heat trapped in the atmosphere by gases like carbon dioxide and methane. This leads to water expansion, with NOAA scientists estimating a third of global sea rise since 2004 is down to warming water.

That's why reducing the planet-warming pollution we produce daily is important to the health of the planet and the safety of its residents.

While the responsibility is largely at the feet of lawmakers and big businesses to implement meaningful pollution-reduction policies, we can all make a difference with small lifestyle changes.

For example, walking or cycling rather than using a vehicle powered by dirty fuel will stop the release of harmful exhaust fumes that trap heat in the atmosphere. Meanwhile, eating more plant-based foods will reduce demand from the meat industry, which is among the largest global polluters

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