Save Your City, Ride a Bike
By: Melle Koper
Over the last few years, Global Warming has been a major political debate. Global Warming is the increase in temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere due to a buildup of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. The increase in temperature in the atmosphere, causes for the sea levels to rise. Three major factors in the increase of the sea levels due to Global Warming are thermal expansion, melting glaciers and polar ice caps, and the ice loss from Greenland and West Antarctica. Thermal expansion is the expansion of water when it heats up, this is happening on mass scale in the Earth’s oceans. Glaciers and polar ice caps naturally melt a little in the summer, but the snow in the winters replace the ice lost that summer. However, recently the ice has been melting at a faster rate than the ice caps and glaciers are recovering in the winters. Similarly, the ice in Greenland and West Antarctica is melting at an accelerated rate. All three of these factors are rooted in global warming.
In the United States the coastal cities are observing significant rises in the sea level. Both figure 1 and figure 2 represent the MSL Trends, which is how much the sea level has either risen or fallen in millimeter per year. As can be seen in figure one the median increase in the sea level is 2.285 millimeter per year. That might not seem significant, but for the century the median trend is .75 feet per century. The most extreme trend is found in Eugene Island, Louisiana, where the sea level is expected to rise by 3.17 feet in the next century. As can be seen in the second figure, the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico is most immediately threatened by the rising water levels. For cities like New Orleans this is a huge threat to their way of life.
The rising sea level brings with it many consequences. Even the slightest increase of the sea level can have destructive effects on coastal areas. The sea water will slowly makes its way inland, contaminating agricultural soil, harming local farmers. The sea water will also flood wetlands, which in turn increases the risk of flooding in established cities during storms, and the loss of homes for the wildlife, the flooding will swipe away nests killing offspring, something that some endangered species, like sea turtles, can’t afford. The sea water will inevitably seep into the fresh water sources for drink water, removing the salt from water is an expensive and complicated process that most cities do not have the infrastructure and the funds for. As more salt water seeps into the soil, the chemical buildup of the soil will change, which many plants would not be able to handle. The plants and trees that can survive the change will have to work harder to pull water out of the salty soil, stunting its growth. These specific plants that can adapt to salty soil, still are unable to survive a repeated influx of salt water. On a financial level, recreational areas and beachfront properties will be ruined by the rising sea, this will mean that the real estate and tourism in coastal areas will take a major hit.
The atmosphere is so polluted, that extreme climate change is inevitable, however it can be slowed down drastically. On average, the American person produces 19.8 cubic tons of carbon dioxide, which is immensely excessive when compared to other countries, in Germany on average a person only 10.4 tons annually, while in China, the average person produces 4.6 tons. If the average person can lower their carbon footprint per year, then the carbon emissions for the United States alone will decrease significantly, because one ton less per person means that the U.S. will produce 325.7 million tons less annually. The main source for carbon dioxide is the burning of fossil fuels, so all that needs to be done is use less fossil fuels. A great way to reduce ones carbon emission is to use less electricity, people don’t realize that most electricity is generated by the burning of fossil fuels, but it’s one of the main sources of pollution. Another major pollutant is transportation, when asking kids who live close to school how they get to school, most respond by driving, which is unnecessary and wasteful. In order to slow down the rate at which the sea level is rising, turn of your lights when you are not in the room, make use of public transport and carpooling, and when you can, ride a bike because it could very well save your city. Please help the cause to save our coast by spreading awareness.