Scientists on Climate Change
Dr. John Church: Sounding the Sea-Level Rise Alarm   
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Halo, eco-loving viewers, and welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. A frightening global trend is the quickly rising sea levels caused by climate change, an issue that has garnered serious attention from scientists and governments across the world in recent decades. Since 1993, globally oceans have been rising three millimeters per year, whereas the average in the 20th century was only 1.8 millimeters annually.

In March 2010, the Lung Ying-tai Cultural Foundation’s MediaTek lecture series featured a talk in Taipei, Formosa (Taiwan) on this issue by respected Australian oceanographer Dr. John Church of the Marine and Atmospheric Research division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which is Australia’s national science agency. He is also the Program Leader of the Sea Level Rise unit of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre.

Dr. Church is the winner of the 2007 Eureka Prize for Scientific Research given by the University of New South Wales, Australia and the co-convening lead author for the chapter on sea level rise for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report. We now feature excerpts from his insightful presentation entitled “Sea Level Rise: Understanding, Expectation and Migration”

So what do we know about sea level rise? If you look at the historical data which we have been responsible for producing, that the rate of sea-level rise has increased from the 19th to the 20th century. It has increased during the 20th century and is continuing to rise.

This contrasts with the period over which our coastal society developed when there were relatively stable sea-levels and we could develop right up to the coast. This is no longer the situation.

The historical record of the Earth is very important for us to consider. In the last interglacial, let’s go 130,000 years ago, sea-level was four to six meters higher than it is today. And coming into that period sea-level rose rapidly at rates of about 1.5 meters per century.

Then to the last phase of the cycle, sea-levels fell by over 120 meters and from the last ice age up till about 10,000 years ago sea-level rose rapidly. A meter per century for many millennia with peak rates perhaps two, three or even more meters per century. These are very rapid rates of sea-level rise.

The current rise of the seas is caused by climate change. Human activities, particularly livestock raising, are releasing enormous quantities of dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and rapidly heating our planet.

The reasons for sea-level rise are firstly warming of the oceans. The oceans are absolutely central to climate change. If you want to understand climate change, you have to understand the oceans. They have absorbed a huge amount of heat. As they warm, they expand and sea-level rises. Thermal expansion is a direct result of greenhouse gases so it’s the warming of the planet, warming of the atmosphere.

Most of the heat absorbed in this process is actually in the oceans. Over 90% of the heat that’s been added to the Earth’s system is in the oceans, so warming of the oceans is absolutely essential.

Secondly, melting of glaciers; I’m talking about glaciers in places like Alaska, Patagonia, and Europe. The biggest issue in the longer term is the future of the ice sheets. Surface melting on the Greenland ice sheet again cause sea-levels to rise.

One of the major issues is if we pass a certain threshold, estimated at about three degrees Celsius, then melting exceeds snowfall, leading to an ongoing, and essentially irretrievable decay of the Greenland ice sheet and a sea-level rise of meters over millennia.

In recent years, the ice sheets in the Antarctic have been melting at an unprecedented rate. In February 2010, a 2,500 square kilometer glacier, weighing 1 billion tons, separated from the Antarctic continent and began to drift at sea.

According to a new study by geosciences expert Dr. Richard Katz of Oxford University, UK and others, the Pine Island Glacier of the West Antarctic ice sheet has passed its collapse tipping point. A collapse would raise global sea levels by 24 centimeters, which would cause enormous disasters in many coastal areas around the world.

In Antarctica, it’s not surface melting as it is in the Greenland ice sheet, but more a warming ocean has penetrated underneath the outlet glaciers in Antarctica, melting them at the base and allowing ice shelves collapsing, allowing outlet glaciers to flow more rapidly. This is a poorly understood process at the moment, but potentially a critically important process for the longer term.

One of the important things to realize about the ice sheets is that largest uncertainties are essentially one sided. Our lack of understanding means that sea level rise could be substantially larger than we currently estimate but not substantially smaller.

When we return, we will have more from Dr. Church on rising sea-levels and the consequences to humanity. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

Environmental refugees are already an issue in the world. It will be an issue into the 21st century and beyond. We need to think about these events because sea level rise will be felt most acutely through extreme events, and the least developed nations and the poor are most at risk.

Welcome back to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home featuring excerpts from a recent presentation on rising sea levels given by Australian oceanographer Dr. John Church as part of the Lung Ying-tai Cultural Foundation’s MediaTek lecture series.

According to the Fourth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in 2007, the average sea level globally is estimated to rise between 18 and 59 centimeters by 2100. However, many scientists now believe that the report’s projections were too conservative, with experts saying a one meter to two meter rise by century’s end is a real possibility.

A stark reality faced by many island nations right now is the danger of totally disappearing. On October 17, 2009, the government of the Maldives conducted a cabinet meeting entirely underwater, where the nation’s president His Excellency Mohamed Nasheed and other top officials signed a document calling for all countries to take immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect low-lying nations.

Coastal countries are also seriously threatened with Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand seeing floods and seawater intrusions becoming more and more frequent. Based on projections, if sea levels rise 50 centimeters, then 55% of Bangkok, Thailand will be underwater; if it rises one meter, then 72% of the city will be submerged.

The United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security predicts there will be over 200 million climate change refugees by 2050 and over 40 countries will cease to exist by 2100 due to sea-level rise.

There are many islands in the Pacific (Ocean), the Indian (Ocean), and the Caribbean (Sea) that will all be impacted by sea level rise, and perhaps more important are the many deltas around the world, where there are many large populations living right next to the coast. Not only is sea level rising, but the land in these regions is sinking also. These combined impacts will have very serious implications through the 21st century and beyond.

Many people live within about a meter of sea level; it’s estimated that about in an excess of about 100 million, maybe the order of 150 million people live within about a meter of the current high tides around the world.

The melting glaciers and the heating of the oceans which are causing seawater levels to climb every year are being driven by the huge amounts of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.

Per the paper “Livestock and Climate Change” published in late 2009 in World Watch Magazine, which is published by the respected WorldWatch Institute, livestock raising is accountable for more than 51% of all human-caused global greenhouse gas emissions. Dr. Church now addresses aerosols and how they relate to the true extent of the warming of the Earth.

Another important aspect of this is aerosols. These aerosols, which arise from the burning of fossil fuels, resulting in air pollution in cities around the world, these tend to cool the planet offsetting some of the warming from the greenhouse gases. In contrast to the greenhouse gases that have a very long lifetime aerosols have a short lifetime, can be washed out of the atmosphere relatively rapidly and we have a lot less understanding of their impact.

The concern is that while they may be offsetting some of the warming to date, masking some of the warming to date, with society deciding to clean up our atmosphere it may reduce that offsetting and actually reveal the true potential of greenhouse gases to warm the planet even faster.

In order to protect ourselves and our children, Dr. Church is calling upon the world to pay close attention to the threat of climate change and take immediate action on greenhouse gas emissions to halt rising sea levels.

If we are to avoid the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and other sea-level rises then reduction in our emissions of greenhouse gases, a very significant reduction, a sustained reduction will be required. Society needs to call on our governments to show leadership to ensure that we reduce our emissions; we reduce them substantially and urgently.

We will have to change the way we approach our use and wastage of energy, we’ll have to adopt new technologies. This is a major challenge to society, a very important challenge for society, and I argue that the need for reduction in emissions is urgent; we need to start now.

The most effective and fastest solution to address the heating of our planet is for us to all adopt the organic vegan diet. If we end consumption of animal products, the livestock industry will cease to exist and sea levels will stop rising as our planet cools. We thank Dr. John Church for sharing his important and critical message about the oceans with the world and wish him much success in his future oceanographic research.

For more details on Dr. John Church, please visit

Conscientious viewers, thank you for your kind company on today’s edition of Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. Up next is Enlightening Entertainment, after Noteworthy News. May all enjoy blessed lives and inner peace.

What would you do if children without homes came to your doorstep?

I was placed in Déva as a parish priest in 1992 and it was very difficult to preach on Sunday knowing that there were hungry children in front of the church. I invited them for lunch after the Mass. I believe that my only duty is to show how good it is to do good deeds, how good it is to live in love.

Learn about the loving work of Franciscan monk Brother Csaba in Romania on Part1 of “One Large Family: The Nurturing of the Saint Francis Foundation of Déva” Sunday, May 23, on Good People, Good Works.

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