Archive for the 'rising sea levels' Category

Apr 25 2007

A BILLION PEOPLE

What’s a penguin worth? A baby seal? A polar bear?

A billion people?

How much will you give me for a billion people? Mothers and brothers, sisters and cousins. Grandfathers and grandsons?

American scientists have figured out how to measure how much land would be lost and how many people might be affected by rising sea levels.

They figured out how many people might die if melting Arctic and Antarctic ice – or storms – raise the level of the sea 100 feet. That’s the level of the big Tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people.


meltwaterstreamgreenlandicesheet.jpg

Meltwater stream on the Greenland ice sheet.

Photo by Roger J. Braithwaite, The University of Manchester UK



I’m only a penguin, but the answer scares me.


“More than 1 billion people live in low-lying areas where a sudden surge in sea level could prove as disastrous as the 2004 Asian tsunami, according to new research by U.S. government scientists.”

I’ve never seen a billion of anything. A billion is bigger than my penguin mind can imagine.

“The team also found that a 100-foot (30-meter) rise in sea level would cover 3.7 million square miles of land worldwide.”

But let’s suppose the water doesn’t get that high. What if it’s just one-sixth that high:

“A rise of just 16 feet (5 meters) would affect 669 million people and 2 million square miles of land would be lost.”

Maybe these scientists are just trying to scare us. A lot of people think scientists exaggerate. This is what one of them, E. Lynn Usery, said:

“Sea levels are currently rising about 0.04 to 0.08 inches (1 to 2 millimeters) each year, making it unlikely such a scenario would suddenly occur across the globe, Usery said.

“But he said 10,000 years ago sea levels rose 20 meters in 500 years – a relatively short span – after the collapse of the continental ice sheets due to warming temperatures.

“‘It can happen in a short period of time if we look at the historical data,’ Usery said.”
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18230533/


So I guess the penguin question of the day is: what are you willing to do to save a billion people?

No responses yet