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Expert: Seas rising should cause concern, not panic

By Staff | Mar 9, 2016

There are many potential apocalyptic signs which threaten the planet Earth, such as nuclear war, a rogue meteorite or an unstoppable killer virus.

But as longtime oceanographer, consultant and former CEO of The Cousteau Society John Englander notes, the sea levels rising is not one of them.

“The fact that the seas are rising, should not be a doom and gloom subject,” Englander told a full audience during the BIG ARTS “Talking Points” seminar last Wednesday. “There doesn’t need to be panic, but instead concern of the rising sea levels.”

Englander certainly knows the subject well, after holding a multiple of CEO chairs of well-known marine societies, as well as being a well-regarded advisor and consultant on the issue of rising seas and marine environmental issues.

In his talk at BIG ARTS, Englander stressed he wasn’t going to preach politics, which the rising sea level issue is a hot political issue, but instead present the facts and research he has uncovered through his 30-plus years of delving into the subject.

His book “High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis”, has been “picked over by a fine-tooth comb” by the climate change deniers, but “they haven’t found anything to challenge, yet.”

Englander listed several myths about the sea levels rising, including that melting polar ice caps isn’t adding to the problem; technology will not stop it; recycling and other “green” practices won’t stop it; it’s not just a “natural cycle” and that storm surge is unrelated to the levels rising.

He added another misnomer of the affects of rising sea levels is that it happens just at the coastlines, but in actuality, it can also affect the marshlands inland which are connected to tidal rivers, thus causing flooding many miles off the coast.

“We can predict the tides 18.6 years in advance and predict those tides to within an inch,” Englander said. “But as sea levels rise, the water is going to be higher as storms come in.”

In geological time scale terms, the sea rises and falls over a span of 50,000 to 80,000 years. But just over the last 100 years, the sea level has risen an unnatural eight to 10 inches and the trend has been that it’s been rising over the last 150 years.

“The present (sea) level became to be about 6 to 7,000 years ago,” Englander said. “That’s about how long civilization records have been around. But the last 150 years or so, it’s been on the rise.”

Some examples of recent occurrences of flooding off coastlines, which haven’t occurred in the past, includes some Miami streets flooding every 28 days.

The reason behind the sea levels rising is because the seawater has been warmed up by a 1.5 degree of Fahrenheit, which in turn, has been caused by the higher level of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the atmosphere.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the CO2 concentrations were estimated 270 million parts per million. By 2014, that number ballooned to 400-plus parts per million, thus causing the “greenhouse effect” and the force behind the climate change push by scientists.

With the climate warming due to higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, a little known fact is that it’s the land ice is one of the main culprits of the sea levels rising.

Land glaciers have been recorded as melting and that contributes greatly to the levels rising, after pouring into crevices and making its way to the oceans.

Englander explained unlike the floating ice like that of the Arctic polar caps, which do not contribute to the sea levels rising even if it all melts, land ice like glaciers only add to the rising levels.

“It’s like having a glass of water with ice cubes in it and if those ice cubes melt, it doesn’t add to the water level,” Englander said. “That’s simple physics. But, now if you add more ice cubes to the glass and those melt, the levels will rise.”

Another reason the seas are rising, according to Englander, is thermal expansion. Just like a wooden door which swells in the heat, the oceans also expand with more heat. Since the ocean’s water temperature has increased by 1.5 of a degree, the seas have expanded four inches taller.

The issue of the Antarctica glaciers melting or softening where they end up sliding into the ocean is also another concern, albeit one which could be way out into the future.

“Since Antarctica is an island, the glaciers on it would add to the sea levels rising if they were to melt,” Englander said. “If all the glaciers (on land) from Greenland to Alaska to the Alps and Africa, were to melt, that would be enough to raise the seas by 212 feet.”

But there are no predictions which can be made if or when the glaciers on Antarctica will slide, so there are no scientists willing to stake their reputations on how much the melting will add to the oceans.

“So when projections and models are made about how much the sea levels will rise with (glacial melting), Antarctica isn’t included,” Englander added.

But there is plenty of time before people living on the coast line and barrier islands like Sanibel have to start preparing their life boats to float to safety.

“This isn’t the end of the world,” Englander said. “But there is time to prepare. We are OK when we have to prepare for a sudden catastrophe like a hurricane, but we have trouble preparing for slow emergencies. We know it will be a problem someday, but we rather kick the can down the street.

“We need to think of the future generations. Now is time to learn and share the information. It’s time to adapt, but not time to waste.”

To learn more about Englander or to purchase his book, go to www.johnenglander.net.