The Energy Grid

Global Warming Sea Level Rising


What will your city look like when the sea level rises? Meter by meter, see the impact as the ice caps melt and the water rises. Remember, though, that it’s not just sea level rising… the storm surges at high tide will overwhelm a coastal city.

Boston, at 7 Meters, is starting to look like an island.

New York, 10 Meters. Central Park is still above water; Secaucus and Queens don’t fare as well. Don’t land in La Guardia unless you have pontoons.

Sacramento, at 5 Meters, is a lake.

New Orleans is in trouble at 1 Meter.

The sea level has risen around 130 meters (400 feet) since the peak of the last ice age about 18,000 years ago. Most of the rise occurred before 6,000 years ago. From 3,000 years ago to the start of the 19th century, the sea level was almost constant, rising at 0.1 to 0.2 mm/yr. Since 1900, the group has increased at 1 to 3 mm/yr;[1] since 1992, satellite altimetry from TOPEX/Poseidon indicates a rate of rise of about 3 mm/yr.[2]

Sea level rise can be a product of global warming through two main processes: expansion of seawater as the oceans warm and ice melting over land. Global warming is predicted to cause significant rises in sea levels over the twenty-first century.


The world is already adapting to rising sea levels through various approaches. Here are some current examples:

  1. Coastal protection: a. Thames Barrier, London, UK: This movable barrier has been operational since 1982 to protect London from tidal surges. It is designed to be raised during high tides or storm surges, preventing flooding in the city. b. The Great Garuda, Jakarta, Indonesia: This is a proposed 25-mile-long sea wall designed to protect Jakarta from rising sea levels and flooding. The project includes the construction of artificial islands and is envisioned as a long-term solution for the city.
  2. Managed retreat: a. Alaskan villages, USA: Several indigenous communities in Alaska, such as Newtok and Shishmaref, are relocating due to the combined impacts of rising sea levels and melting permafrost. b. Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, Canada: This historic town is actively planning for a managed retreat to address the impacts of sea-level rise, including relocating some infrastructure and restoring salt marshes to act as a natural buffer.
  3. Ecosystem-based adaptation: a. Building with Nature, Indonesia: This project, led by the Indonesian government and supported by the Dutch government, aims to restore mangrove forests and build permeable structures along the coast to reduce erosion and protect coastal communities. b. Living Shorelines, USA: Several US states, such as Maryland and North Carolina, are implementing living shoreline projects, which use a combination of natural materials and structures to stabilize coastlines, reduce erosion, and protect habitats.
  4. Urban planning and design: a. Copenhagen, Denmark: The city is implementing a comprehensive climate adaptation plan, including stormwater management systems, green roofs, and elevated parks to reduce flooding and adapt to rising sea levels. b. The Sponge City initiative in China aims to create urban environments that can absorb and store excess water during floods or heavy rains. Projects include permeable pavements, rain gardens, and green roofs.
  5. Regional and international collaboration: a. Pacific Islands Forum: This intergovernmental organization brings together leaders from Pacific Island nations to discuss and collaborate on shared challenges, including climate change and rising sea levels. Member nations are working together on climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. b. Climate Adaptation Summit 2021: This summit, hosted by the Netherlands, brought together world leaders, policymakers, and experts to discuss solutions and commitments to adapt to climate change, including rising sea levels. The summit resulted in the Adaptation Action Agenda, which outlines global initiatives and partnerships to support climate adaptation.

As sea levels continue to rise, these examples demonstrate that the world is already taking steps to adapt and protect vulnerable communities and ecosystems. However, further efforts and investments in adaptation and ambitious greenhouse gas emission reductions will be crucial to ensure long-term resilience.