2015 Was Hottest Year on Record & Now Sea Levels May Wipe Our Cities Away (Video)

2015 was the hottest year in recorded climate history. In our world of hyperbole, unsubstantiated political discourse, and general laissez-faire attitudes about problems with no immediate effect on our wellbeing, hearing such news doesn’t necessarily incite a knee-jerk reaction. Generally speaking, the issues of global warming and climate change don’t elicit the same excitement as do issues like gun control, abortion rights, nuclear armament or other politically charged debates, which seems counterintuitive. After all, is there any threat more universal or harmful than Planet Earth no longer being inhabitable? Probably not. And yet, chances are today’s announcement from NASA and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration is unlikely to circulate on social media the same way Sarah Palin’s announcing her endorsement of Donald Trump for president did. However, today’s news is infinitely more important, and will allow for a conversation about what can be done to reverse the worrisome trend.

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According to NPR, the findings about the rise in global temperature in 2015 is just the latest year in an already established trend. In fact, the previous three years in a row all registered as being warmer than the year before, but the findings about 2015 are even worse. “Not only did 2015 finish as the warmest year on record, it did so by the widest margin ever – nearly a third of one degree Fahrenheit warmer than 2014’s average,” writes Bill Chappell. That may sound like a tiny fraction, but any increase in temperature has considerable effects on things like the oceans, animal life, and the atmosphere. Perhaps the single-most influential contributor to such an increase is the emission of greenhouse gases, a fact that offers at least a modicum of hope. Dependence on energy sources that emit high levels of carbon dioxide is a part of human civilization that can be changed, if not all together removed. Carbon-based fuels like coal and oil are driving up carbon dioxide rates in our atmosphere, which leads to rising temperatures and related ecological ills, but things like solar energy and other alternative sources can counteract some of the most harmful effects facing our climate today.

Part of the changing climate around us is a rise in sea levels due to the melting of glaciers. Naturally, as sea levels rise, coastlines become corroded and in some cases, entire island nations and major coastal cities can be quite literally swept away. It’s a terrifying scenario, but one based in scientific fact. In a phenomenon aptly named “king tides,” sea levels that are abnormally high begin to eat away land mass, not just in water-locked places like Hawaii, but major metropolitan locations like San Francisco. According to a report for Wired Science, the very real effects of king tides happening right now are going to have an immediate effect on cities around the world. Marina Psaros – co-founder of the King Tides Project – calls king tides “a way for us to see how the future of sea-level rise will be like,” and the future doesn’t look too good. Furthermore, daily occurrences of king tides will likely become the new normal as soon as 2030, and by the end of the century, sea levels could rise by as many as five or six feet if current trends continue. That means places like Lower Manhattan could be submerged in water that comes to the average person’s chest level. If that isn’t enough to get us involved in combatting climate change, then 2030 will come much, much sooner.

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