Shifting Tides – The Oceans Are Rising, So What?

~by Gary Hedden

Sea level rise has already started and the “likely” projection is 10 inches by 2050.

Two speakers addressed this challenge Sept. 16 at the Los Altos Library.

The first, Violet Saena, grew up on Samoa and knows first hand the impact on small island nations like Samoa and Kiribati. Samoa has mountains, but the atolls of Kiribati are flat coral reef islands. Ten inches is a lot to them. Just in case, they bought 5000 acres in Fiji, but they really don’t want to move. They are proud of their land and their culture. Violet now manages Acterra’s Resilient Communities Program in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park. The effort is called adaptation and the goal is to move beyond research and pilots to doing something. That includes big projects like dikes to hold back the water and small projects like cooling centers to protect people without air conditioning when we have periods of extreme heat.

The second speaker, Dr. Anna Michalak, is a Professor in the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University. She gave us a quick lesson on the science of climate change, and it’s real folks. We have had CO2 levels between 180-280 ppm for the past 800,000 years. Now it is over 400 and the planet is warming up. One interesting fact, sea-level rise isn’t just from melting glaciers. That accounts for 52% of it. Another 38% comes simply from the warmer oceans expanding in volume. Sea level rise is ominous of course, but the biggest damage comes from extreme weather events – cyclones and hurricanes. She told us about the things we can and should be doing to move away from burning fossil fuels, but the pace isn’t fast enough.

Executive director Kris Jensen, speaker Violet Saena, and Dr. Anna Michalak

Speaker Violet Saena 

Dr. Anna Michalak


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