, Newburyport, MA


January 30, 2013

Sea level rise: It's real

We’re going under the premise here that sea level rise is real; this is not a debate.

That is how Ron Martino began the first sea level rise gathering of some 30 area residents on Jan. 14 at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center.

They accepted his premise.

That is no small thing, when you consider that it took Sandy to make climate change real for many on the East Coast. Here we were meeting on the Plum Island Turnpike, on the way to a place where folks have just had a glimpse of the harm a storm like Sandy would do if it struck this barrier beach: widespread destruction far beyond the erosion of a few beachfront homes.

Climate change is no easy thing to get your mind around, involving as it does our entire earth, and all its nations and all their people plus the science and the inevitable uncertainty about the future.

So let’s take it more slowly, with a focus on an aspect of global warming that affects we who live on the salty shadow of the Atlantic Ocean, one of the earth’s great bodies of water.

We can leave the reasons why — the science — aside for now, not because it isn’t important or because it isn’t solid, but because we’re mostly citizens, not scientists, and coming to grips with what is becoming the end of the earth as we’ve known it is a big job.

Sea level rise is simple. The temperature of the earth rises a little, ice melts, the oceans rise a little. What’s the big deal?

Expectations, that’s what.

We expect the climate to be predictable within established boundaries, and we live accordingly. We expect that when the ocean rises, it will fall back again, like the tide. We expect to return to normal after a storm, repairing the damage.

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