With many reports and research indicating the damage global warming could inflict, news has come out recently that an important American historical site, Jamestown Virginia, is under threat by rising sea levels. Since the fifth assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and related global warming research came out earlier this year, many political and perception changes have occurred in relation to global warming. U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday mandated new EPA regulations that will require substantially reduced carbon emissions from existing power plants, and many studies conducted over the last decade show the majority of Americans believe that climate change, or global warming, is occurring. A CBS News poll in May showed only 11 percent of those polled believe global warming did not exist.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited the island of Jamestown, Europe’s first permanent colonial settlement in what is now the United States. Accompanied by National Park Service rangers, she explored the island witnessing the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Park Service natural resource specialist Dorothy Geyer said that 60 percent of the island would be put under water by a 1 ½ foot sea level rise. 80 percent would be submerged by a rise of at least four feet.
The most recent global warming research by the United Nations estimated that sea levels could rise within this century by as much as one to three feet. According to a NASA study, probably the biggest catalyst for an alarming sea level rise is the west Antarctica ice sheet, which is melting “past the point of no return,” according to Eric Rignot, a NASA glaciologist. This ice sheet is predicted to completely melt away in a few centuries, and contains enough water to globally raise sea levels by four feet. Researchers said that the United Nation’s estimate did not significantly take the newest data of the west Antarctica ice sheet melt into account, and that their end of the century numbers with upcoming reports and data according to Pennsylvania State University’s geosciences professor Sridhar Anandakrishnan “will almost certainly” be closer to the three feet estimate.
The news of the threat to the historical site of Jamestown due to sea level rise is paltry compared to the effect global warming could have upon worldwide coastal populations. The U.N.’s estimated sea level rise could cause the displacement of tens of millions of people who live in coastal areas. The rising sea level will be especially detrimental to developing nations lacking the resources of wealthier countries. However, developed nations are not excluded from the damage that global warming would dispense. Of the 25 most densely populated counties in the U.S. 23 are along coasts, lending them especially sensitive to the increase of sea level, storm frequency and intensity and a multitude of other dangers. Figures show that in 2012, weather and climate disasters cost more than $100 billion to the American economy.
The World Meteorological Organization, run by the U.N., released data confirming that 2013 was the sixth warmest year on record, that the long term warming trend is consistent, and that these figures make global warming “undeniable.” While the news of the threat to historical sites such as Jamestown will not cease to appear if global warming continues to be the undeniable cause of destructive climate trends, the more significant news is how nations and individuals will cooperate in ending what appears to be an impending catastrophe.
By Jesse Eells-Adams