In the wake of the December 26, 2004, tsunami that hit coastal villages and towns alongside the Indian Ocean, little thought has been given to another problem very near at hand. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change has released a report that states due to the warming of the oceans and melting of the polar ice caps, sea levels are expected to rise twenty centimeters by 2100 (7). Many have not given thought to this information and it"s inherent ramifications. With rising sea levels, catastrophes such as the Indian Ocean tsunami could become an everyday occurrence.
The Environmental Protection Agency"s response to this issue is to "relocate and rebuild, " which could cost billions of dollars and the forfeit of many of our country"s most historical buildings to the sea. I think that with proper planning and execution, however, we can preserve our national heritage and lifestyles with a few steps of protection.
The first step to protect our coastlines from the seemingly insurmountable conundrum of the sea is to impede its rise in the first place.
This can be done by cutting the emissions of ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbons. CFC"s, as they have come to be known, trap the ultra violent rays emitted by the sun, turning the earth into a virtual oven (1). This not only melts the polar ice caps but also helps to warm the seas, thus creating higher sea levels as well as increased storm frequency(1). The cutting of the emission of CFC"s can only come from government regulation as well as residential cooperation.
Residential emissions can be cut down by car pooling, saving electricity, and using more environmentally friendly materials. Corporate cooperation coupled with government regulation can also eliminate wasteful CFC emissions. International regulation on CFC emissions, such as the Kyoto Protocol, will cost businesses much money(2). To combat this loss of revenue, tax breaks can be given to environmentally savvy businesses.
The protection of the environment itself can also help protect our cities and shorelines from washing away into the ocean. Barrier islands, marshes, and estuaries all soften the blow of incoming waves, tides, and storms (4). The United States government spends millions each year to protect the Florida everglades, but is practically negligent towards other endangered coastline features that help not only protect our cities and coastlines, but our sources of freshwater as well (6). As the ocean raises, it poses more and more threat to our underground water sources, aquifers. If we lose our sources of fresh water, what are we to do then? We are either forced to import water through pipes from far away places or buy and install a water distillation plant to convert salt water to drinking water. Eliminating further costal development will also impede the rise and severity of the ocean. Coastal development prevents a beach the opportunity to repair itself. Tall buildings and recreation parks are hindrances to wind blowing natural dunes, a feature of the coast that softens incoming waves as well as rising tides. If we save the natural features of the coast, we in effect save ourselves.
Another step to protect beaches and cities already in jeopardy of the ocean is to implement sea walls, groins, barricades, and the art of "sand pumping." While all of these implementations may be unsightly and destroy the beauty of the beach, they are necessary evil in the protection of our lands. The pairing of groins, objects placed parallel with the ocean in order to prevent sediment being carried off by waves, and sand pumping will increase the width of our beaches by extending the distance a wave has to travel to come to any structure (3). Sea walls and barricades are last resort protection devices. They can partially stop the incoming waves by simply blocking them. Sea walls are already in effective use in areas such as Maryland, where nearly three hundred miles of sea wall has been in use for the past twenty years (5).
I think that if we adhere to the above planning, that we can avert future catastrophes such as the Indian Ocean tsunami. In time to come, the information listed in the Pew Center"s report on Global Climate Change will come to surface, and with it a public outcry like no other. People from all over the nation will come together in a common bond, to save their neighbor and property. With the cooperation of national and local government, we can save our homes, our land, and our lives. Works Cited