Sea Level Rise In Pictures, Cancer Villages Near Beijing

I think a big part of the reason why citizens of the world have not rallied to deal with climate change is the lack of a certain deadline that would warrant our immediate response to the grave consequences of our warming planet. There is no discussion of a specific hurricane or other specific imminent event. As a species we are very good at procrastinating. But Climate Central has published a series of shocking graphics that show the danger of rising sea levels faced by Shanghai, Hong Kong, London, New York, and many other cities.

The graphics show us how the environment might react if global temperatures rose either 2 degrees Celsius or 4 degrees Celsius—how that spike would impact the streets we live on. For instance, if global temperatures were to rise 4C, the bull statue near Wall Street in New York would be all but submerged except for its tail. London Bridge would connect two ponds, not two banks of the River Thames. The Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai would sit on an island of its own. Climate Central’s projections show that no fewer than 145 million people in China alone would have to evacuate their low-lying land if temperatures rose 4C. By limiting global warming to 2C, the number of people directly affected in China would drop to a mere 64 million in danger of being flooded.  By comparison, only 25 million Americans would be impacted by rising seas if temperatures warmed 4C scenario, according to the Climate Central report. This visual shows what sea-level rise could look like for Shanghai:

This Google Earth “fly-over” video shows the affect on Hong Kong of projected sea-level rise under 4C and 2C temperature rises:

The bad news is, if we don’t significantly reduce our CO2 emissions in the next few decades, it will be too late to slow the global temperature rise, and thus such extreme sea level rises. The only good news under this scenario is that we would not see the extent of the sea level rise projected by Climate Central until a few hundred years from now.

Maybe what we need to push ourselves into action is something that with which we can identify directly. So, if you don’t see your city in the images or links above, search for it in this map to find out whether your home could be under water, too:

Nature University recently posted an article about Feng Jun, a man in Hebei province who lost one of his daughters to leukemia in 2007. Two years earlier, some of the fish died on Feng’s fish farm, located close to a steel processing plant called the Jinming Precise Cold Roll Sheet Strip Co. At the time, Feng didn’t make any connection between the dead fish and the nearby factory. When a group of villagers organized by a former Jinming worker gathered in 2005 to report the noise, water, and air pollution produced by the plant to the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) in Beijing, Feng didn’t show any interest. Then, in 2006, Feng’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. After she died in 2007, Feng started petitioning the government for medical expenses and losses in revenue from his fish farm. Feng has filed lawsuits against Jinming for years to no avail, and has been told to pay litigation fees of 40,000 RMB (U.S.$6,080). The courts have not found a “causal relationship” between the excessive arsenic and manganese levels in Feng’s water supply and the wastewater discharged by the plant. Feng’s younger daughter also was diagnosed with leukemia but recovered with treatment.

Nature University compared Feng’s case to a similar one in Toms River, New Jersey, where toxic dumping by chemical plants was linked to childhood cancers and lead to one of the highest settlements in favor of the victims of negligent environmental pollution. By contrast, lawsuits filed in China against the government or polluting companies are rarely successful. As Feng continues to petition the government, Jinming’s pollution continues unchecked despite MEP findings that nearby water pollution was linked to Jinming as early as 2010. In 2013, the MEP again singled out Jinming for its environmental degradation, but the attention had little effect. Feng and his fellow petitioners find hope in a new clause in the environmental laws passed last year that states that environmental Non-Governmental Organizations can now launch public interest lawsuits in cases of environmental pollution and ecological damage. We have yet to see concrete examples of such cases being won in favor of the many victims hailing from China’s “cancer villages.” In China, the laws are there, but they need the teeth of enforceability.