Oceans rising
Interview with John Church

By 2100, tens of millions of people may be vulnerable each year to coastal flooding events associated with sea-level rise and extreme events.
Interview conducted by Edna Yahil from UNESCO's Bureau of Public Information.

Question: Why should we worry about sea levels rising?
Answer: People love the coast and love the ocean. We are always moving closer and closer to the coast. Bigger populations are living in cities close to the coast. Extreme events already affect people. Rising sea levels will exacerbate the impact of extreme events.

Question: How do people affect sea levels?
Answer: Sea level is rising principally because of climate change and the greenhouse effect. We’re emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and that is causing global warming. This is warming the oceans and causing the oceans to expand, glaciers to melt and sea levels to rise. In addition to these large-scale global effects, people are also affecting sea levels by storing water on land, draining wetlands and building dams.

Question: How will sea level impact our lives?
Answer: Sea level rising will be felt most acutely through extreme events. Sea level rise itself is a gradual, on-going but cumulative process. Most of us we will actually feel it for the first time through an extreme flooding event. It is these extreme events that will bring home to us that sea level is rising and the impact that this has on our lives. A recent example is Hurricane Katrina.

Question: Just how many people are affected by sea-level rising?
Answer: Unless we take adaptation measures, by the end of this century tens of millions of people will have to respond each year to problems resulting from sea-level rising.

Question: What role does UNESCO play in mitigating the problem of sea level rise?
Answer: The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO has an important role. It is one of the sponsors of the World Climate Research Programme, which is a primary organization that narrows the uncertainty of uncertainty with future projections of climate change including sea-level rise and the subsequent impact on society.

John Church is an oceanographer with CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre. On 21 June, he gave the 2006 Roger Revelle Memorial Lecture at the 39th session of the Executive Council of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).

Global Sea Levels: Past, Present and Future
Abstract of John Church’s 2006 Roger Revelle Memorial Lecture.

Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO

Monitoring the Oceans
The UNESCO Courier, November 2005

Photo: © CSIRO
John Church
Publication Date 21-06-2006 11:00 am
Publication Date 21-06-2006 11:00 am
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