Monday, February 7, 2011

Global Impact of the Rising Sea

There are many complex and interrelated facets to the consequences that result from the increasing level of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the earth’s atmosphere. A common misconception is that the apparent increases in the severity of winter in many parts of the United States refute the urgent need to introduce public policy that would seriously control CO2 emissions. Quite to the contrary, dramatic changes in climate that are evidenced throughout the world reinforce the serious nature of the impact of the accelerated release of green house gases into the atmosphere on global climate.

One of the more disturbing consequences of climate change is the potential for a significant rise in the sea level. Of particular interest are the consequences an increase in the sea level would have on the inhabitants of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. This area is inhabited by 18 million people - a number that represents 22 percent of the entire Vietnamese population and accounts for 40 percent of the country’s cultivated land. In this fertile region, food production accounts for more than half the rice, 60% of the fish and shrimp and 80% of the fruit crop for the entire nation.

This area is especially vulnerable to sea level rise. Periodic flooding has played a significant role in the life of the peoples of the Mekong Delta. As a matter of fact, flood depths from a half a meter to three meters represent what is considered to be within the normal range. Such a level of flooding is referred to “nice floods” by those living in the area. However, more severe flooding can have a dramatic impact on the ability of the residents to cope.

In fact, both the frequency and magnitude of the flooding that exceeds four meters have increased. As a consequence, Individuals and families from this region are making the decision to seek another livelihood, preferably in the cities.

Using computer modeling, it has been estimated that one meter rise in sea level would impact seven million people living on the delta and a two meter rise would adversely affect fourteen million people – 50 percent of the delta population. Although current models for sea level rise do not anticipate such dramatic increases, unforeseen possibilities such as the accelerated melting of land-locked on Greenland and West Antarctic could dramatically change these predictions.

Given this information, it would be advisable for governments throughout the world to formulate policies with the purpose of curtailing the outpouring of CO2 into the atmosphere.

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