Geology professor talks sea level rise

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Photo Credit: Karen Pinilla | Daily Texan Staff

If carbon dioxide levels are not stabilized soon, almost 150 million people will be displaced by rising sea levels and forced to move inland by 2100, according to a geology expert.

Geology professor Jamin Greenbaum spoke Thursday evening at Tejas House for their weekly speaker series, Tejas Coffee. Greenbaum, who researches sea level change, discussed the connection between climate change and rising sea levels and how they affect the future of the globe.

Sea levels are likely to rise about a meter over the next 100 years, Greenbaum said. Because of this, the cities of Miami, New Orleans and Alexandria, Egypt will all be forced to move inland or be abandoned altogether.

“New Orleans is one thing, but an ancient city like Alexandria … on geological timescales that doesn’t matter, but on human timescales that’s an interesting cultural change that area is going to have to deal with,” Greenbaum said.

However, Greenbaum said sea level increase like the world experiences currently is not unusual. Three million years ago, when the Earth was at one of its warmest temperatures, sea levels were likely over six meters higher than they are now. What’s different is carbon dioxide increase, the culprit for sea level rise three million years ago, is now caused by humans, Greenbaum said. 

Working in Antarctica comes with unique challenges for Greenbaum. At times, his team is forced to take a break because of nearby whales splashing or penguins parking themselves behind their plane’s wheels, he said.

McKay Proctor, Tejas president and supply chain management senior, said he appreciated the visual representations Greenbaum used to show sea level change and ice melting because it made normally incomprehensible information easy to discern.

“The way that he organized it was awesome,” Proctor said. “It’s one thing to talk about climate change from a really high level perspective, but to be like, ‘Hey, I fly a plane over the icecaps and something’s up,’ that’s mind blowing.”

Corporate communications senior Lauren Long said she is glad people like Greenbaum are dedicating their entire lives to studying sea level change because most people are unaware of its consequences.

“We don’t realize the damage we’re doing,” Long said. “Right now in the society we’re living in, we’re so concerned about what’s happening in front of us when this is really what’s happening all around us, but we’re just being oblivious to it.”