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Rising sea levels and their disastrous consequences

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Environment, Conservation


Source: TH

 Context: As per the WMO’s ‘State of the Global Climate 2022’ report, the world’s sea level is rising at an unprecedented rate.

Rising sea levels: The rate of global mean sea-level [GSML] rise has doubled from 2.27 mm/year in 1993-2002 to 4.62 mm/year in 2013-2022.

 GSML budget (individual contribution of these factors): Loss of glaciers and ice sheets contributed 36% to the GSML rise (between 2005-2019), Ocean warming (55%), and changes in the storage of land water (less than 10%).



  • Ocean warming (increasing concentrations of CO2 and other GHGs drive global warming, 90% of the extra heat is stored in the oceans),
  • Ice loss from glaciers and ice sheets. Earth’s ice cover/cryosphere includes the
    • Arctic and Antarctic regions (called sea ice),
    • Glaciers,
    • Ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica,
    • Seasonal snow cover, and
    • Permafrost (mass of land that remains below 0ºC for at least two straight years).



  • It will cause changes in land cover – seas swallowing more of the land cover.
  • The chances of weather formations like cyclones could increase.
  • Changes in land water storagemore seawater could seep into the ground → Groundwater (usually freshwater) turning saline.
  • Water crises in coastal areas → impacting agriculture in adjacent regions → displacement of hundreds of thousands of people → increasing social disparities and economic liabilities of governments.

Most vulnerable: Coastal communities particularly in tropical countries like India and South Africa, which have high population densities.

Case study (Impact of sea-level rise on societies):

  • The Sunderban Delta in West Bengal is the world’s largest mangrove area.
  • The lives of coastal communities, including their economic activities, are tied intricately with the coastal ecosystem.
  • Rising sea levels and coastal erosion has left more islands submerged under water, endangering socio-economic stability and has forced local communities to migrate.
  • A combination of these forces has increased child trafficking in the Sundarbans.


Way ahead:

  • More reports are required to generate and accumulate data on climate change.
  • These reports should also press for global and local policy-level changes related to climate change.


Insta Links:

State of the Global Climate 2022