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Future Sea Level
Alex Steffen, 26 Sep 06

The seas are rising: how much they'll continue to rise is, to some very real degree, still up to us. If we embark on an effort to drastically cut CO2 emissions, scientists say we may be able to constrain sea level rise to a matter of inches or at worst a foot or two over the next century (though even that much sea-level rise will have profound effects on coastal ecosystems. On the other hand, if we do nothing -- if the developed world doesn't change its ways, if China burns its coal, if the rainforests are completely logged and various feedback loops (melting permafrost, open water at the North pole) kick in to make things worse and speed melting of Greenland and Antarctica -- we could (at least according to the models run) see oceans rising 23, 30 even 80 feet.

Rising seas are not the most dire potential effect of global climate change, but they will cause serious damage and, even more, they are indictors of the magnitude of the transformation we are wreaking on the planet that nearly everyone can grasp, if they're told about them.

That's where Future Sea Level comes in. An art/activism group based in San Francisco, Future Sea Level is hitting the streets with crime scene tape printed with a water pattern and the group's name and applying them to buildings to show exactly how big an impact rising seas could have.

The point is not to scare people: rather the point is to snap people to attention that the time in which huge climate problems are upon us is today, and the place where huge climate problems will unfold is wherever you happen to be standing. It is, in a making visible the invisible way, a method of cutting through the denialist rhetoric. It is a method of bringing climate foresight to the masses.

Erica says (and I agree), "My only quibble with the site is that their "solutions" page emphasizes easy, minimal-impact efforts (such as buying low-flow appliances, recycling, switching to compact flourescents, and properly inflating tires), when real global change will require radical shifts in our behavior, from where we live to how we produce our energy to how we get from place to place."

Still, it'd be cool to get my hands on some of that tape -- indeed, this is a project people in coastal cities everywhere could easily replicate.

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Odd coincidence Alex - I was about to write you that my wife, who works for an environmental group called The Natural Resources Council of Maine, just held a news conference in Portland, the state's largest city, showing how sea level rise would affect our coast. A number locations in downtown Portland had flagging tape tied to the coming sea level. That rise would completely inundate the Bush Family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine - which I'm afraid won't provide much incentive for people to change their habits.

Posted by: David Foley on 26 Sep 06

Whoa... I like the idea of flagging tape!

Posted by: Daniel Haran on 26 Sep 06

Great to hear about attention seeking efforts like these, which are essential to raising awareness of just how much climate change will affect us.

Small point - the majority of the world, and no doubt your readers, operate on a metric system, and not the imperial system. Can you please indicate how many meters 23 feet is? 30 feet? 80 feet?


Posted by: Christopher on 26 Sep 06

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