Antarctica and Greenland combined hold so much ice that if it all melted, sea levels would rise by 80 meters, and they are melting, faster and faster. New research published in the journal Science looked at four different periods of warmth over the last 3 million years. It shows that minimum average global sea level during each period was at least 6 meters higher than it is now. That’s bad news, and it gets a lot worse, because over the next couple hundred years, we’re very likely to see much warmer temperatures than anything experienced for millions of years on Earth. But to get a little sense of just what we’re facing, instead of looking at the worst-case scenario of 80 meter sea level rise, let’s just look into the future of a world we’re pretty much locked into, where coastlines will be 6 meters higher than today. These are the top ten countries, according to ClimateCentral.org, ranked by the number of people currently living within 6 meters of sea level: Of all the nations on this list — in terms of the percentage of its population — the low lying Netherlands will be hit hardest by rising seas, as 62% of the Dutch people currently live within the six meter zone. Brazil is the ninth most severely affected country, with more than 45,000 square miles below the line.
You can see how just a modest 6 meter rise expands Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay. Egypt’s Nile River Delta is already turning into a saltwater wasteland because of rising sea levels. Soon, the ancient port city of Alexandria will disappear under the Mediterranean. The U.S. is number seven. Its most populous metropolitan area, New York, will see its coastline move in, especially in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and parts of eastern New Jersey. Sixth on this list is the island nation of Japan. Tokyo, the world’s most populous metropolitan area, will start to see large areas overtaken by the rising Tokyo Bay. Bangladesh is the most densely populated country — with a population over 10 million — in the world. Many of its 140 million people live in the Ganges Delta, which will be heavily affected.
Fourth worse-off is the archipelago nation of Indonesia, with 10% of its current population living within 6 meters of sea level. Jakarta, the capital, will be about half submerged. India, the world’s second most populous country, will see the western peninsula of its most populous city, Mumbai, turn into an island. Just 2% of the country lives in low lying areas, but that’s still 28 million people. 36% of Vietnamese live on the coast. The country’s southern tip, jutting out into the South China Sea and currently home to 8 million-man Ho Chi Minh City, will no longer exist — unless you have scuba gear. And the most affected country is also the most populous one. China currently has 85 million people living below the line, and it’s most-populated city, Shanghai, will look like Venice in the future. The fact that some people living today are going to see this future is staggering. But there still may be reasons to hope that this 6 meter rise may be the worst-case scenario, instead of the best.
One is that since China just became the world’s biggest emitter of CO2 emissions, the future is literally in their hands if they want to minimize the catastrophe of their biggest cities being wiped out and a mass exodus of tens of millions of their people going inland. The other possible silver lining is that this amount of sea level rise could take more than a century, so there is a narrow window of time to adapt and start planning for this new reality before it actually happens. If we don’t, humanity is going to be completely overwhelmed by all the problems created by climate change, and all the progress we’ve made could very well disappear along with our coastlines. Like and share this video to help open other people’s eyes about the staggering challenges climate change will bring. You can learn more through the links to our sources below. This video was edited by Brendan Plank. For The Daily Conversation, I’m Bryce Plank, thanks for watching..