Earth Law and Coastal Communities


Image by One Shared Ocean

Image from One Shared Ocean

It turns out that four out of ten people in the world – about 2.4 billion people – live in coastal areas. UN Sustainable Development, Ocean Fact Sheet, June 2017.

The Issue

Over the past 100 years, the global sea level rise has accelerated with current rates the fastest they have ever been in nearly 3,000 years. UN Sustainable Development, Ocean Fact Sheet, June 2017.

Scientists conservatively estimate that, by the end of the century, sea levels will rise by at least a meter on average. The first cause comes from the melting of ice sheets due to rising temperatures. Less ice means fewer reflective surfaces and higher temperatures, which in turn causes more melting and fewer reflective surfaces and so on. Scientific American, How is worldwide sea level rise driven by melting arctic ice? June 2017.

The second cause of rising sea levels comes from a simple property of water – as the water heats up, it expands. In the last two decades, changes in ocean temperature have contributed approximately 30% to the global mean sea level, whereas total land ice mass loss contributed twice as much at 60%: Science, Sea-level rise and its impact on coastal zones, Nicholls and Cazenave, 2010

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