8 Effects of Rising Sea Levels on the Environment

Oceans have mitigated the impact of humans continuing to release greenhouse gases into the sky.

More than 90% of the heat from these gases has been absorbed by the oceans, but it is harming them: the year 2021 established a new record for ocean warming.

One of these repercussions of climate change is rising sea levels. Certainly, there are significant effects of rising sea levels on the environment and this includes coastal areas as well as landlocked zones.

Since 1880, sea levels have risen an average of over 8 inches (23 cm), with nearly three of those inches coming in the past 25 years.

The sea level rises by 0.13 inches yearly (3.2 mm.) A foot of sea level rise is anticipated by 2050, according to recent research that was released on February 15, 2022.

According to the most recent technical data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which updates 2017 projections with the most accurate estimates yet, it translates into as much sea level rise over the following 30 years as occurred over the previous century.

Why is the Sea Level Rising?

As a result of climate change, sea levels are rising. Over the next century, this surge is probably going to pick up speed and last for millennia.

The term “sea level rise” refers to an increase in ocean levels as a result of global warming.

Because it releases carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, burning fossil fuels is one of the factors contributing to global warming.

The majority of this heat is then absorbed by the oceans. Water expands as it becomes warmer. This leads to an increase in ocean levels worldwide.

The melting of ice sheets and glaciers, as well as the warming-related sea water expansion, are two aspects of global warming that contribute to the rise in sea level.

According to science, the cause of global warming is a higher proportion of harmful chemicals like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide released into the atmosphere by the products we consume, which prevents heat from dissipating as it normally would.

Over the past century, a significant quantity of gases that trap heat has been released as a result of the burning of fossil fuels and other activities.

The air is now unnaturally warmed by the trapped heat, a phenomenon known as the “Green House Effect,” which causes ice to melt in the Arctic and other polar regions.

Additionally, the Green House Effect causes the ocean to warm because the ocean waters absorb over 90% of the extra heat in the atmosphere.

Effects of Sea-Level Rise on the Environment

The sea level rise’s repercussions are already being felt, and the future seems bleak.

1. Our Drinking Water will become Contaminated.

The groundwater sources that many coastal areas rely on for their drinking water will be impacted in many locations as the rising sea creeps further and farther up the shore.

These underground water sources, or aquifers, are essential freshwater springs since groundwater makes up the majority of the world’s freshwater.

While it is feasible to remove the salt from water, doing so is an expensive and labor-intensive procedure, making saltwater dangerous to drink.

2. It will Obstruct Farming.

We obtain the water for irrigation from the same freshwater sources that we use for drinking.

The issues at hand are the same: These groundwater sources can become saltier due to the encroaching saltwater.

Crops can be hampered or even killed by saltwater, yet making freshwater from saltwater is an expensive and unsustainable operation.

In a cruel irony, recent research claims that extracting fresh water from the ground for human purposes may be causing sea levels to increase.

After being utilized for drinking, irrigation, or other industrial reasons, groundwater is frequently dumped into the ocean, where it adds to the water that is already lapping at our coasts.

3. It will alter the Vegetative Life in Coastal Areas

As more saltwater reaches our coastlines, the chemistry of the soil along the shoreline will change, which most likely also affects the plant life there.

Plants are extremely environment-sensitive. A plant’s ability to survive in a specific environment depends on a variety of conditions, including air temperature, water availability, and the chemical composition of the soil.

The ground near the coast will get saltier as increasing ocean levels soak in. Some plants can vanish from the seashore if they are simply unable to adapt to the shift in soil salinity.

Trees will experience particular difficulties. According to Climate Central reports, trees may have stunted development as a result of having to work harder to draw water from saline soil.

If the soil is too salty, trees may even perish, which is a common indicator of sea level rise. Trees that are specifically adapted to salty soil are unable to withstand frequent flooding by seawater.

4. Species Extinction in both Plants and Animals

Several species of plants and animals that require and only survive in the cold environment are in danger of going extinct as a result of global warming and the resulting rising sea levels.

Due to our continued abuse of carbon dioxide and monoxide gas, animals like the polar bear and penguins—which depend on the cold for their survival—are the first to risk a certain extirpation.

The seashore is home to a wide variety of species. Animals like shorebirds and sea turtles will suffer as the rising ocean erodes the shoreline and floods the habitats of coastal species.

Flooding poses a serious risk to their delicate nests, which is particularly problematic for endangered species like sea turtles who cannot afford to lose any eggs.

Flooding or changes in the local plant life may have severely destroyed their habitats to the point where they are no longer able to exist there.

In addition to these, life on beaches would also be affected by the rise in sea level.

More saltwater on the coastlines will disturb the environment, which will lead to the extinction of several plant species.

The frequent changes in the climate would harm not only the soil and vegetation but also the fauna that lives on the beaches.

5. Threat to Tourism

The threat posed to the tourism industry would be one of the immediate effects of the rising sea level on the economy.

The tourism industry’s backbone would be destroyed by the recurrent flooding and beach devastation.

Recently, municipal officials in North Carolina, US, prohibited coastal lawmakers from exploiting predictions of increasing sea levels to further the region’s economic interests.

6. Increase in Atmospheric Disasters

On the other hand, a higher sea level brings about torrential rains and powerful winds, releases powerful storms, and brings about other significant climatic phenomena that can pose a serious threat to areas that may be in its path.

7. Submersion of Coastal Areas

People who live in coastal regions and island countries may be in danger of drowning if a deluge happens.

Rising sea levels could result in higher water levels that invade populated regions, creating a lot of problems for those locations.

And unlike other natural tragedies where migration could help address issues, moving to other regions of the world will be useless in the case of increasing sea levels and the anticipated challenges because every landform on the planet is bordered in some way.

8. Water Contamination

One of the main problems that people and other creatures on earth will confront is the contamination of drinking water because around 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water.

Greater inundation of more inland places caused by rising sea levels contaminates drinking water sources.

Similar to how irrigation and agriculture would be impacted by the poisoning of freshwater supplies, this would eventually result in a food crisis.

Additionally, the cost of saltwater desalination would make it an unsustainable method of addressing the situation.


As we have seen, the effects of rising sea levels affect both the landlocked areas and the coastal areas. This is not a forecast any longer, we are looking at what is currently happening. But, we can with joint effort curb this menace.

8 Effects of Rising Sea Levels on the Environment – FAQs

How is climate change responsible for rising sea levels?

First, seawater expands as seas warm as a result of rising global temperatures caused by climate change, taking up more space in the ocean basin and raising the water level. The second mechanism involves the melting of glaciers on land, which results in the ocean receiving more water which is also caused by climate change.

What is the projected sea level rise by 2050?

According to the analysis, sea levels would increase around the coastline by a further 10 to 12 inches by 2050, with exact amounts changing regionally mostly because of changes in land height.


Editor at EnvironmentGo! | providenceamaechi0@gmail.com | + posts

A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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