The ocean levels have been rising over the course of the last century. However, recent history has seen this issue exacerbated significantly.
In the past several decades, the sea levels have risen at a rate never before known to modern history. As of now, the rate is gradual—about 1/8th of an inch per year, but the potential consequences still loom large.
Unchecked, rising sea levels can and will have consequences that may even be seen by the planet’s current population. Certainly, issues will manifest for generations of the near future.
What can be done about rising sea levels? And what is causing them to rise in the first place? Today we will explore these questions, and examine which industries are having the biggest environmental footprint when it comes to rising sea levels.
What science tells us about rising oceans
For one thing, it is actually normal for the sea to rise gradually over time.
Climate change is one of the principal factors of rising oceans. As an environmental conservative will tell you, the climate has been changing for the entirety of the earth’s history.
What distinguishes the past from the present? For one thing, rapidity. Sea levels are currently rising nearly twice as quickly as they did in the previous century. The cause is the other factor.
As rainforests continue to fall, and fossil fuels continue to be used at record rates, heat-trapping gasses cause the atmosphere to get hotter.
This is the process that we commonly refer to as global warming.
Rising temperatures come with consequences. Land ice continues to shrink at record rates, and more water is added to the world’s oceans. Thus, the sea levels rise.
Though the greatest impacts of rising sea levels are still years off, there are also immediate concerns that threaten coastal communities all across the planet.
In the United States, the threat is particularly pronounced. Over one hundred million people live in coastal communities that are susceptible to the impact of rising sea levels.
Here are a few risks that rising sea levels pose to coastal communities.
As the water levels rise, the shoreline is continually eroded. Waves penetrate inland, and communities experience a continued encroachment of water.
A storm surge is, ostensibly, a tsunami-like state that is symptomatic of rising sea-levels.
Storm surges are a factor common to many low-pressure systems, but as sea levels rise, the problem is both increased, and exacerbated.
The result is flooding that is reaching farther and farther inland, thus causing great damage to homes and communities at large.
As the sea levels rise, they compromise freshwater reservoirs. Saltwater penetration into fresh supply impacts both agriculture and the populations who suffer from a diminished supply of drinking water.
Industries that are having the Biggest Impact
Now that we have established an understanding of what rising sea levels are, and why they are impactful, let’s examine what industries are having the biggest impact on climate change.
The transportation industry has a massive impact on climate change. Cars, trucks, ships, planes, and trains contribute a staggering 28% of greenhouse emissions. This figure makes the transportation industry the largest contributor to rising oceans.
Not surprisingly, the energy industry is also a major culprit. Why? Fossil fuels contribute to over 68% of energy production.
And of course, there is no overlooking the impact of industry. The production of goods is one of the leading sources of fossil fuel emissions.
These emissions are both the product of fossil fuels being burnt, and chemical reactions that occur as materials are processed.
The result? Industry accounts for about 22% of all environmental emissions, making them a major contributor to rising oceans.
The operations of day to day life also contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. This includes fossil fuels burnt for heat, electricity consumption and the improper disposal of waste.
Then there are less obvious problems, like the one that we will look at next.
A Surprising Culprit: The Environmental Impact of the Cleaning/Janitorial Industry
Businesses in the United States alone consume over 6.2 billion pounds of cleaning products each year. A staggering figure with serious consequences for the environment. The environmental impact of cleaning solutions begins at the factory.
For one thing, the manufacturing of most cleaning solutions requires a non-renewable resource. Petroleum. Petroleum is an element common to many products (like gasoline) responsible for global warming.
Additionally, of course, there is the energy used in the production process and the plastic that is conventionally used in bottling.
The annual disposal and replacement process of janitorial equipment is also staggering. After all, the 6.2 billion pounds of material needs to go somewhere, right?
Each year, tens of thousands of trucks transport waste material from the cleaning industry. Then, of course, there is the ultimate fate of the waste: the landfill.
When it is all said and done, nearly every stage of a cleaning product’s life has some impact on the environment, making the industry at large sneakily harmful. The result is pollution in the ocean, and yes, rising oceans.
Rising Oceans: The Conclusion
Rising oceans is a pervasive problem that will only get much worse if left unchecked. The consequences of global warming are already far more impactful than has been previously estimated.
Industries in a range of sectors are having a clear impact on climate change. On a micro-level, personal consumption is also continue contributing to the rise of sea levels.
How can we fix the problem? Awareness is the first step towards improvement. However, all of the understanding in the world is useless in the face of inaction.
Regulation and deliberate personal effort are what will ultimately change the tides of climate change and serve to abate the ongoing problem of rising sea levels.