- The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), an agency of the United Nations, in its recent report said sea levels rose by 4.5 millimeters (mm) a year on average between 2013 and 2022.
- This rise in sea levels is more than three times the rate at which they rose between 1901 and 1971.
- The report highlighted the fact that Mumbai, India’s financial capital, is among the cities facing the biggest threat from rising sea levels.
Why do the sea levels rise?
- The rise in sea level is the result of acceleration in the loss of ice from the Arctic and Antarctic regions as a result of global warming.
- The Indian Ocean is among the “hotspots” in this respect.
Impact of rising sea levels/warming oceans
- Intensification of storm surges when tropical cyclones occur because rising sea levels cause an exponential increase in the height and velocity of sea waves.
- For example, Cyclone Amphan, which hit India’s east coast in 2020, brought seawater 25 km inland and flooded the Sunderban delta, which is, globally, among the regions most vulnerable to rising sea levels.
- Subsidence, water and soil salinity and diminishing livelihoods.
- Coastal agricultural communities will suffer falling productivity from declining soil quality.
- Production of natural feedstock for fish can be impacted due to warming of oceans.
- Global approaches to mitigation strategies largely focus on containing emission and reforestation to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
- Investment in electric vehicles, solar power, and green hydrogen are key mitigation strategies in India’s fight against global warming. However, there are shortcomings that need to be addressed:
- Progress in implementing these mitigation strategies is patchy and not comprehensive.
- Unwillingness of the developed countries to underwrite the costs developing nations will incur to cope with the global warming and climate change crisis.
- Reorienting fisherfolk to alternative livelihoods and creating infrastructure for drinking water along the worst-hit areas are solutions that can profitably begin well before the crisis grows out of control.
- Urban flooding and water management are areas that demand much more attention than they get.
- Neighbouring, low-lying Bangladesh is an example of a country where an economic miracle is threatened by rising sea levels; it is among the countries that record the highest number of “climate refugees” who have lost homes and livelihoods to warming oceans.
- This is the last predicament India should face as it seeks faster economic growth.