The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego reported today that carbon dioxide — a key greenhouse gas fueling global warming — has reached levels not seen for millions of years. This has dire consequences for people who own real estate in coastal communities vulnerable to sea level rise flooding.
Measurements taken at Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory in Hawaii peaked at 421 parts per million in May. The last time the level was that high over 4 million years ago sea levels were 16 to 82 feet higher than they are today. The new reading is 1.8 parts per million over 2021. Before the Industrial Revolution got underway in the 1800s, carbon dioxide levels were around 280 parts per million, where they’d been for nearly 6,000 years of human civilization.
Carbon dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for an extended period of time. The NOAA report not only stresses the need for humans to rapidly reduce the use of fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas — that release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, it also sounds the alarm for people who own or are considering buying coastal real estate in areas that are now experiencing or at-risk of experiencing sea level rise flooding.
NOAA’s latest report on sea level rise predicted an average of about 2 feet of sea level rise between now and the end of the century based on current greenhouse gas emissions. If they’re not reduced, that figure rises to up to 7 feet of sea level rise. Some areas are forecast to experience greater or lesser amounts of sea level rise than others due to land elevation, land subsidence, ocean currents and other local conditions.
It’s important to note here that when we talk about up to 7 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century, we’re talking about a gradual but accelerating rise in ocean level. This will put more and more coastal real estate at risk of flooding in the years and decades to come before the end of the century.
“The science is irrefutable: humans are altering our climate in ways that our economy and our infrastructure must adapt to,” said NOAA Administrator Risk Spinrad, Ph.D, in an article on the agency’s website. “We can see the impacts of climate change around us every day. The relentless increase of carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa is a star reminder that we need to take urgent, serious steps to become a more Climate Ready Nation.”
The bottom line is to deny or ignore climate change and continue to burn fossil fuels at the current or an even greater rate is to deny basic science. We all need to do what we can to reduce the consumption of coal, oil and natural gas to protect lives, property and, quite frankly, the future of humanity.