Within the next fifty years, many of the islands that make up nations like Kiribati, and the Maldives, may be completely underwater. Additionally, in just 100 to 300 years, Venice could be completely submerged, along with major parts of Amsterdam, Miami and New Orleans. So what is the world doing about rising sea levels? Well, unfortunately, not that much. In 2013, the world pumped out a record 35.3 Billion Tonnes of CO2. Since pre-industrial times, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has risen by 40%. Most scientists agree that this is eroding the earth’s ozone layer, exposing it to harmful UV rays, and increasing insulatory gases. Overall the earth is getting hotter, the polar ice caps are melting, and international sea levels are rising. China, the United States and India are the world’s largest polluters. But for years they have been reticent to cut back on their fossil fuel industries. What cutbacks they HAVE agreed to have been unenforced, and often ignored.
The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 established target emission reductions for major countries. Yet the United States refused to ratify it, and China and India were ultimately exempt from making emission cuts due to their “developing nation” status. In recent years some slowly-sinking countries have taken legal action against major contributors to global warming. In 2002, the island nation of Tuvalu threatened to bring charges against the US and Australia for their roles in climate change. In 2011, Palau announced that it would also seek legal counsel from The International Court of Justice for similar reasons. Even in the Netherlands, which is another nation at risk for flooding, some 900 people recently signed a petition to sue the Dutch government for pollution. But are lawsuits really going to work? Well, some islanders allege that other polluting nations are violating a legal precedent established by the United Nations, known as the “no harm rule”. This principle obligates a nation to prevent, reduce and control the risk of environmental harm to other states. However, it’s proven difficult to sue countries for climate change.
Harm from rising sea levels is usually indirect, unintentional, and hard to pin on just a few nations. Still, some lawsuit threats have garnered lots of media attention and increased public awareness. The next UN Conference on Climate Change is in late 2015. Global warming activists are expected to be there in full force. A new, legally binding agreement between ALL nations is the ambitious goal for the upcoming convention. And until an agreement is reached, rising sea levels will be an unabated threat to many seafront communities. One element of the rising sea level problem, is the melting of our planet’s ice sheets. To learn why these behemoths of ice are so crucial to our planet's ecosystems, check out this video from DNews. There’s a link to that video in the description below, if you’re on your phone or something. Thanks for watching!.