How does sea level rise accelerate global warming? Sea level rise forces populations that live near coasts to relocate, resulting in increased construction of new buildings and infrastructure, as people scramble to move inland. About 400 million people, or 5% of the human population, live less than 60 ft above sea level. Construction was already responsible for 36% of CO2 emissions globally in 2018, and more construction will accelerate CO2 emissions, accelerate global warming, and increase the rate of sea level rise.
This aspect of increasing construction at a local level, in San Francisco Bay communities, was illustrated very well in an article in High Country News, July, 2020, “It’s not natural for them to cooperate”, by Robin Meadows.
While the article is about the social and political aspects of cooperation between autonomous cities in the face of global warming, it also strikes me as a stark example of the futility of dealing with it. Instead of accepting the inevitability of global warming, which is what we seem to be doing now, you'd think it would make more sense to stop the bleeding, and make choices that avoid spewing CO2 into the atmosphere. But that’s not what we're doing. As sea levels rise, our grand half-baked plan is to abandon existing buildings, leaving them to waste, and build new ones on higher ground. Since construction is one of our biggest carbon footprints, this will ultimately lead to yet more global warming, causing yet more sea level rise, likely resulting in yet more abandonment and more construction followed by more CO2 in a vicious and never-ending circle. Does it feel like we’ve forced ourselves between a rock and a hard place? It does to me.
What we should be doing is making every effort to minimize fossil fuel consumption. Every one of us makes choices in our everyday lives to either reduce or increase global warming. All we need to do is reduce our driving, stop buying stuff we don't need, stop wasting energy by leaving things on in our homes when we're not even using them, eat only organic food, etc. We are all to blame for the disaster we are creating, and it's up to us to stop it.