The bird and the turtle
Text and drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt, DrawnJournalism.com
Sea level rise is the slow turtle that steadily, but quietly crawls up a little higher on the beach every year. Storm surge is the increasingly large bird, flapping its waves, flying fast and destructively inland, soon to be gone again, so reconstruction can begin. With the turtle, no rebuilding is possible.
Two threats that each require a different response
The seas are rising, but slowly, so slowly that some still doubt that the seas are rising. But year after year, sea level rise increases in speed and height. And from not having interested many, the rising sea water is now something that makes more and more coastal cities and countries look at the sea with completely new eyes
Until a short time ago, the forecasts for sea level rise in this century were relatively low (under one meter), but the latest 2023 calculations of both the melting from Antarctica and Greenland have changed this picture dramatically, with scenarios of up to 3meter ( 10 feet) sea level rise.
If the ice on Greenland and Antarctica completely melted away in an imagined extreme scenario, the increase would be approx. 70 meter. (230 feet) So these are still limited numbers, even in the worst-case scenarios for the next hundred years
Sea level rise and fall is not new
In historical perspective, changes in sea level are more the rule than the exception:
20,000 years ago, during the last ice age, the sea was more than 100 m lower than today, and 115,000 years ago it was 6-9 meters higher than today. The sea has always changed height depending on how large glaciers grew or shrunk over the large land masses, and throughout Earth’s history the sea’s height has fluctuated by over 300m. ( Wikipedia link: Past sea-level )
But the last approx. 6000 years. the sea has been very stable around the height it has today. So it requires a longer perspective to see how much the sea level can change.
According to the experts, the coming sea level rises are not something we can change now, that time has long passed, the debate is now only about how fast the sea will rise and how much we can delay it by reducing our CO2 footprint.
The figure for CO2 in the air has been stable for around 6000 years, at around 280 ppm. Until it started to rise during industrialization.
In 2023, the figure continues to rise and is around 420 ppm. A number that has not been so high in the last 3 million years. And that time the sea was about 9m. higher and the temperature 2-3 degrees warmer than today. (link: NationalGeographic co2 levels)
Unfortunately, storm surges are also amplified by rising seas, partly because the tides are also getting higher, and also because more extreme weather will hit us more often. With stronger winds and more violent rainfall, as both are amplified in a warmer world.
But some of the ways we can prepare for the two challenges are different: Sluices and dams can be closed and keep out storm surges, and opened again when the weather is better. But sea level rise requires more permanent barriers – Or in the long term more often: A withdrawal from the areas that can no longer be protected from the sea.
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Keywords: Rising seas, sea level rise, climate change, global warming, climate crises, drawnjournalism, visual journalism, illustration, drawing, news, tegnet journalistik, drawn journalism havstigning havstigning2023conf01