The edge where land and sea meet is a site of convergence. The coast contains ecological, economic, social, and political systems that are often concealed but whose influences define a liminal space; the threshold between land and sea that is in constant transition and changing more rapidly from sea level rise. When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their 6th assessment report in August 2021, the results cemented the impacts from human-caused climate change: “Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.” ¹ By the end of the twenty-first century, it is projected that the Earth’s oceans could rise up to 1.1 meters (3.61ft) globally.² Simultaneously, NASA scientists have found that the last time Earth’s temperature rose significantly (21,000 years ago) the sea level increased by 45 meters after the warming had stopped.³ Taken together the two reports paint a challenging prospect for the future. Even if we reach net-zero emissions, the water will still come.
¹ “IPCC Sixth Assessment Report,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, accessed August 20, 2021, https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar6/.
² “IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, accessed August 20, 2021, https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc/.
³ “How long have sea levels been rising? How does recent sea-level rise compare to that over previous centuries?” Nasa Sea Level Change Observations from Space, accessed August 20, 2021, https://sealevel.nasa.gov/faq/13/how