A report issued last month by the International Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, or IAMAP, predicts a global sea level rise of up to five feet by 2100—far greater than the levels presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007. The effect on our beloved beaches in the coming decades will be dramatic and devastating if these predictions come to pass.
For countless Americans, summer and beach go hand in hand. In fact, every year there are more than 2 billion visitors to America’s coastal, gulf, and inland beaches—twice as many visitors as all of the country’s national parks combined. And just in case the mere thought of lounging in the sand or splashing in the waves doesn’t have you ready to jump out of your chair, the newly released National Geographic photo spread on America’s top 10 beaches of 2011 ought to do the trick.
Along with the opportunity for some summertime R&R, our shorelines serve as storm surge mitigators, nurseries for countless species of fish and invertebrates, and the economic lifeblood of coastal communities. But the world’s beaches are far from everlasting, and the damaging effects of climate change are already being felt.
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