Scientists are sounding the alarm as a growing threat looms over the coastal state – here’s what you need to know

Rising sea levels are a problem in many places around the world, from islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean to canalside cities like Venice, Italy.

In the United States, many coastal areas are preparing for this situation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has shared an interactive map of what the country could look like after as much as 10 feet of sea level rise.

What is going on?

In 2022, NOAA’s Sea Level Rise Technical Report detailed that pollution levels at the time meant that a sea level rise of 60 cm between 2020 and 2100 was increasingly likely.

The organization further warned that the failure to reduce warming pollution from transport, agriculture, industry and other sources could increase levels by as much as two meters during this period.

A rise of two feet would endanger coastal states as far as the east and west coasts, as well as Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama. Oregon is a state that could have a big impact.

As Oregon Live has detailed, a six-foot rise will flood islands in the Columbia River, potentially completely covering Sauvie Island.

“Damage would be extensive along the coast,” Oregon Live noted. “Places like Warrenton, Seaside and Toledo would also be unrecognizable and largely submerged in water.”

Why is sea level rise worrying?

Higher water levels primarily put coastal communities at risk of severe flooding. This could destroy homes and businesses, make some areas unliveable and endanger citizens.

Among the other major impacts of sea level rise are an increased likelihood of extreme weather events, land loss and coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion and freshwater pollution, and climate migration, as described by the National Resources Defense Council.

What can be done to stop rising sea levels?

The biggest cause of rising sea levels is rising global temperatures. As the NRDC noted, warmer weather is causing 270 billion tons of ice mass to disappear from the Greenland ice sheet every year.

Oceans also absorb heat remarkably quickly, absorbing about 90% of the excess heat trapped in the atmosphere by gases like carbon dioxide and methane. This leads to water expansion, with NOAA scientists estimating that a third of global sea level rise since 2004 is due to warming water.

That’s why reducing the planet-warming pollution we produce every day is important for the health of the planet and the safety of its inhabitants.

While the responsibility largely falls on lawmakers and big corporations to implement meaningful pollution reduction policies, we can all make a difference with small changes to our lifestyles.

For example, walking or cycling instead of using a vehicle powered by dirty fuel will stop harmful exhaust emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere. Meanwhile, eating more plant-based foods will reduce demand from the meat industry, which is among the world’s biggest polluters.

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