The changing shorelines from rising sea levels is unstoppable. We must learn to adapt to this new reality.Sea level rise and the changing shoreline

Oceanographer and author of High Tide on Main StreetJohn Englander is a leading expert and educator on sea level rise. In this TED talk Englander explains how human civilization takes for granted global coastlines, given that for all of recorded human history, it hasn’t really moved in any significant way. But that is changing.

The new reality, says Englander, is that coastlines are changing, moving inland due to unstoppable sea level rise. Shorelines are immune to politics and ideology. The hard, physical reality is that the ice is melting, sea levels are rising and “the shoreline has just begun to move inland.”

The fact is that our coastlines are in a state of change. Mitigation – adopting a new, sustainable energy economy – can slow this rising tide, but not stop it. Englander argues that we must implement adaptation strategies to cope with this inevitable reality of rising seas and changing coastlines.

“The truth is it changes everything about our world… It changes our physical world, it changes where we live. Where are children will live, our grandchildren and beyond… We have to adapt to a shoreline that is shifting inland for the first time in human civilization.”

It is a sobering reality. It is unstoppable, but we have ample warning. “We have time to adapt,” says Englander. And we can. History is rife with examples of humanity rising to great challenges. This is perhaps the greatest challenge we face and the greatest opportunity to rise to that challenge and make a better world.

“Those that see the future can not only survive, they can thrive.”

Image credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, courtesy flickr

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