Essentials of Oceanography

Consequences of Sea Level Rise

satellite image showing flooding on the coast of a Hawaiian island. see caption
Figure 1: illustrates a line for 3-meter flooding around Waikiki on the island of Oahu

Think again about the economic and human consequences of sea level rise. Developed areas would be flooded at great cost, or, we would have to spend inordinate amounts of "public" money to protect them. In areas such as Bangaladesh, sea level rise would wipe out agricultural production and cause huge loss of life (which already occurs during cyclones in the Indian Ocean).

Sea level rise will inexorably cause the coastal zone to "step back" just as has occurred over the past 18 thousand years as wave attack erodes cliffs and moves sand from beaches farther onshore and offshore. Our favorite barrier island beaches will evolve, but the houses on them will be destroyed or moved back at great cost.