Rising Seas ultimate threat? Peter Ward
We move on to the inevitable: rising seas. Will it be worse than heat, drought, and floods?
All our lives, all our maps, our ports, and our commerce depend upon a steady sea level. All places around the world are marked so many feet or meters "above sea level". That is history. Now the sea level will rise, just from the greenhouse gases we have already put in the air, and the heat we have already put into the sea.
I interview Dr. Peter Ward, a thought-leader in the field, and a leading scientist. He's the author of the break-through book "Under A Green Sky". That book explains how relatively sudden (in geological time) mass extinctions could occur - due to greenhouse heating. The very bacteria in the sea change, emitting hydrogen sulfide, which kills off many land animals and plants. This view is now widely held, due to further scientific studies which also lead in that direction.
In his new book "The Flooded Earth" - Peter Ward explains why, how, and how fast the seas will rise, due to global warming. Even this century, we are in for big changes, likely a meter or three feet by 2100. It could be slightly less, or a lot more, we don't know for sure.
And it also looks like the massive process of de-icing the world has begun. If that tipping point has in fact been reached, as scientists like James Hansen fear might be the case even at our present carbon dioxide levels - then nothing can stop a thousand-year melt that will leave the world more or less ice-free.
That has huge ramifications for everything, including the movement of winds and ocean currents. As Hansen says, we may be heading "for a different planet".
Even within the next 50 to a hundred years, Ward says, we could see significant damage to agriculture, just when we need food most for those extra three billion people. Even a small rise in sea levels can send salt into the water tables of low-lying deltas. Hundreds of millions of people depend upon delta food. Even California, in places like San Francisco, could lose a lot of productive land, this century, due to rising seas.
Not to mention the multi-trillion dollar cost of raising all those docks, and moving all those ocean-side homes - at a time when we expect to have less fossil fuels, at much higher prices.
In our interview, Peter Ward claims that the single biggest threat and impact of climate change will be rising seas, rather than hot weather, or even drought. We'll see.
http://www.ecoshock.org/downloads/climate2010/ES_Peter_Ward_LoFi.mp3 - 6MB 24 min from The Radio Ecoshock show for 100924
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