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Sierra Daily

Jun 26, 2012

Five Feet High and Rising

Water gauge iStock_000020378682XSmallDavid Roberts of Grist takes on the latest news about sea-level rise (spoiler alert: it’s not cheery) with the kind of blunt reporting that gets this writer to read the latest update on climate change — which, no surprise, is rarely cheery.

According to a new study in Nature Climate Change, even if the world can limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, sea levels could still rise between 5 and 13 feet by the year 2300. Cut that temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees, though, and that number could be halved. (Roberts writes: “The good news is that 1.5 degrees raises seas only 1.5 meters (5 feet) by 2300!”)

Roberts approaches climate issues the way Stanley Kubrick approached nuclear armageddon. He makes you pull the bed covers off your head and take another look, despite your cringing. You can watch him condense his understanding of climate issues into 17 minutes in the video "Climate Change is Simple." (The New York Times’ Andrew Revkin adds a more optimistic take here.)

Roberts ends with this: “So if we bust our asses for the rest of our lives, we can protect our post-2100 descendants from the worst of sea-level rise. Whee!…It’s not good news. But it’s not getting any better and whining won’t change it. Nothing to do but keep plugging away.”

Image by iStock/EyeMark

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

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