Years ago, I was on a flight from Honolulu, Hi to Agana, Guam, an eight hour flight over the Pacific Ocean. The plane was in need of more fuel, so the 707-aircraft had to land on Majuro to refuel. This location is an atoll that is a part of the Marshall Islands. As the plane was descending and as we were approaching the one sole runway for the airport, you could see the ocean waves lap up and spill onto the tarmac. This phenomenon definitely got my attention.
In 1990, rising sea levels were beginning to become a concern for locations like Majuro. More and more land was being covered by sea water. Residents of places like Majuro who farmed found that their livelihood was literally sinking under the water.
Jeff Goodell in his book “ The Water Will Rise “has argued persuasively that the challenge of rising sea levels is threatening locations throughout the world including Greenland,, Antarctica, Bangladesh, Venice, Miami etc.
“In the twentieth century, the oceans rose about six inches. But that was before the heat of burning fossil fuels had much impact on Greenland and Antarctica (about half of the recorded sea-level in the twentieth century came from the expansion of the warming oceans). Today, seas are rising at more than twice the rate they did in the last century. As warming of the Earth increases and the ice sheets begin to feel the heat, the rate of sea-level rise is likely to increase rapidly. A 2017 report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the United States’ top climate science agency, says global sea rise could range from one foot to more than eight feet by 2100. “ ( “The Water Will Rise ,“P. 10 )
Already, there are days when portions of St. Mark’s Square in Venice will be under several feet of water.
Also, in Miami Beach, during certain high tide periods, there is regular flooding of streets. The municipal authorities in Miami are struggling with how to plan and engineer raising streets by two feet or more in order to accommodate this change.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut learned firsthand, due to Hurricane Sandy, what rising levels of sea water could do to tunnels, beaches, subways and electrical grid systems.
“ The storm damaged or destroyed at least 650,000 homes, and 8 million customers lost power. Storm surges were massive: 8 1/2 feet higher than normal at Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and 12 1/2 feet at Kings Point, Long Island.
The total cost of the storm was 100 billion. “
Hurricane Sandy Facts: Damage and Economic Impact – The Balance
https://www.thebalance.com › … › US Economy › GDP and Growth › Natural Disasters
More close to home, Hurricane Harvey in 2017 wrenched havoc on Port Aransas, Rockport, Corpus Christi, Victoria among other locations and especially Houston, where 53 inches of rain fell. The total cost of Hurricane Harvey was estimated at $ 125 billion. Hurricane Harvey was year’s costliest U.S. disaster at $125 billion in …https://www.texastribune.org/…/hurricane-harvey-was-years-costliest-us-disaster-125-
Even now, getting financial assistance to those who suffered during both Hurricane Sandy and Harvey has been a Herculean effort. Many communities are still struggling to recover and to be sustainable.
Rising sea levels will continue to encroach and threaten coastal areas including large metropolitan areas. Potentially difficult decisions will have to be made regarding how to relocate large groups of people to higher ground.
This situation will also affect how homes and businesses will be constructed for the future. How infrastructure i.e. the power grid and emergency communications will be protected and maintained.
Bob Dylan wrote:
“ High water risin’, six inches ‘bove my head
Coffins droppin’ in the street
Like balloons made out of lead
Water pourin’ into Vicksburg, don’t know what I’m going to do
“ Don’t reach out for me, ” she said
“Can’t you see I’m drownin’ too?”
It’s rough out there
High water everywhere” ( High Water )
How will we become effective stewards of the Earth? How will we be responsible caretakers of the creation?
Our current path is perilous and it will continue to likely produce more damage to property, people, to wildlife and to infrastructure.
In Genesis 6 the writer tells us:
12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 6: 12-16)
For the rainbow to be a lasting promise of God’s blessings to us, then it is incumbent upon us as human beings to change how we are treating the earth, because if we don’t the trajectory of the changing climate truly threatens to extinguish life as know it.
Our homes, our welfare, our very lives depend upon it.
May it be so.