Photos: Carbon emissions' impact

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National Geographic Magazine takes a look at the rising water levels across the globe. Here's an excerpt from the cover story of the September 2013 issue:

"Unless we change course dramatically in the coming years, our carbon emissions will create a world utterly different in its very geography from the one in which our species evolved. “With business as usual, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will reach around a thousand parts per million by the end of the century,” says Gavin Foster, a geochemist at the University of Southampton in England. Such concentrations, he says, haven’t been seen on Earth since the early Eocene epoch, 50 million years ago, when the planet was completely ice free. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, sea level on an iceless Earth would be as much as 216 feet higher than it is today. It might take thousands of years and more than a thousand parts per million to create such a world—but if we burn all the fossil fuels, we will get there.
No matter how much we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, Foster says, we’re already locked in to at least several feet of sea-level rise, and perhaps several dozens of feet, as the planet slowly adjusts to the amount of carbon that’s in the atmosphere already. A recent Dutch study predicted that the Netherlands could engineer solutions at a manageable cost to a rise of as much as five meters, or 16 feet. Poorer countries will struggle to adapt to much less. At different times in different places, engineering solutions will no longer suffice. Then the retreat from the coast will begin. In some places there will be no higher ground to retreat to.

By the next century, if not sooner, large numbers of people will have to abandon coastal areas in Florida and other parts of the world. Some researchers fear a flood tide of climate-change refugees. “From the Bahamas to Bangladesh and a major amount of Florida, we’ll all have to move, and we may have to move at the same time,” says Wanless. “We’re going to see civil unrest, war. You just wonder how—or if—civilization will function. How thin are the threads that hold it all together? We can’t comprehend this. We think Miami has always been here and will always be here. How do you get people to realize that Miami—or London—will not always be there?”

 TIENGEMETEN ISLAND, HOLLAND - An abandoned house still stands on Tiengemeten Island in South Holland, where the government intentionally broke the dikes to create a rare slice of wilderness in a country shaped by humans.(Photograph by George Steinmetz/National Geographic)
Nat Geo's 'Rising Seas': The impact of carbon emissions on our environment
TIENGEMETEN ISLAND, HOLLAND - An abandoned house still stands on Tiengemeten Island in South Holland, where the government intentionally broke the dikes to create a rare slice of wilderness in a country shaped by humans.(Photograph by George Steinmetz/National Geographic)
MANTOLOKING, NEW JERSEY - By the time Sandy struck the Northeast, it had killed 72 people in the Caribbean. It was no longer a hurricaneâbut it was a thousand miles wide, with 80-mile-an-hour winds that drove the sea onto the coast in lethal surges. The final death toll was 147. As the world warms, it may see more storms like Sandy. It will certainly see higher seas. (Photograph by George Steinmetz/National Geographic)
Nat Geo's 'Rising Seas': The impact of carbon emissions on our environment
MANTOLOKING, NEW JERSEY - By the time Sandy struck the Northeast, it had killed 72 people in the Caribbean. It was no longer a hurricaneâbut it was a thousand miles wide, with 80-mile-an-hour winds that drove the sea onto the coast in lethal surges. The final death toll was 147. As the world warms, it may see more storms like Sandy. It will certainly see higher seas. (Photograph by George Steinmetz/National Geographic)
 BIRTHDAY CANYON, GREENLAND - Itâs a small contributor now, but its surface has started melting in summerâa worrisome sign. The ice sheet contains enough water to raise sea level nearly 25 feet. (Photograph by James Balog, Extreme Ice Survey/National Geographic)
Nat Geo's 'Rising Seas': The impact of carbon emissions on our environment
BIRTHDAY CANYON, GREENLAND - Itâs a small contributor now, but its surface has started melting in summerâa worrisome sign. The ice sheet contains enough water to raise sea level nearly 25 feet. (Photograph by James Balog, Extreme Ice Survey/National Geographic)
MAALE, MALDIVES - A seawall now protects Maale, capital of the Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago that is the lowest, flattest country on Earth. By 2100 rising seas may force Maldivians to abandon their home. More than 100,000 live on this island, on three-quarters of a square mile. (Photograph by George Steinmetz/National Geographic)
Nat Geo's 'Rising Seas': The impact of carbon emissions on our environment
MAALE, MALDIVES - A seawall now protects Maale, capital of the Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago that is the lowest, flattest country on Earth. By 2100 rising seas may force Maldivians to abandon their home. More than 100,000 live on this island, on three-quarters of a square mile. (Photograph by George Steinmetz/National Geographic)
 IJBURG, AMSTERDAM - Small docks and communal walkways link the floating houses built on a lake in east Amsterdam. Secured by sliding collars to steel pilings, the houses can rise and fall during floods and storms. (Photograph by George Steinmetz/National Geographic)
Nat Geo's 'Rising Seas': The impact of carbon emissions on our environment
IJBURG, AMSTERDAM - Small docks and communal walkways link the floating houses built on a lake in east Amsterdam. Secured by sliding collars to steel pilings, the houses can rise and fall during floods and storms. (Photograph by George Steinmetz/National Geographic)
<br><br><br><br><br>ST. PETERBURG, RUSSIA - Two curved steel gates, each more than 350 feet long, can swing shut to protect St. Petersburg, Russia, from Baltic Sea storms, which have flooded it repeatedly over the past three centuries. Completed in 2011, the gates are part of a 16-mile-long flood barrier that also carries a new highway. (Photograph by George Steinmetz/National Geographic)
Nat Geo's 'Rising Seas': The impact of carbon emissions on our environment





ST. PETERBURG, RUSSIA - Two curved steel gates, each more than 350 feet long, can swing shut to protect St. Petersburg, Russia, from Baltic Sea storms, which have flooded it repeatedly over the past three centuries. Completed in 2011, the gates are part of a 16-mile-long flood barrier that also carries a new highway. (Photograph by George Steinmetz/National Geographic)
 FLEVOLAND - Flanked by windmills, this dike protects farmland that is almost entirely below sea level. Dikes and continuous pumping keep more than a quarter of the country from reverting to swamp or open water. ( Photograph by George Steinmetz/National Geographic)
Nat Geo's 'Rising Seas': The impact of carbon emissions on our environment
FLEVOLAND - Flanked by windmills, this dike protects farmland that is almost entirely below sea level. Dikes and continuous pumping keep more than a quarter of the country from reverting to swamp or open water. ( Photograph by George Steinmetz/National Geographic)
SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NEW JERSEY - Superstorm Sandy narrowed New Jersey's beaches by more than 30 feet on average. At Seaside Heights it swept away the pier under the roller coaster. (Photograph by Stephen Wilkes/National Geographic)
Nat Geo's 'Rising Seas': The impact of carbon emissions on our environment
SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NEW JERSEY - Superstorm Sandy narrowed New Jersey's beaches by more than 30 feet on average. At Seaside Heights it swept away the pier under the roller coaster. (Photograph by Stephen Wilkes/National Geographic)
The cover of the September 2013 issue of National Geographic Magazine. &copy; National Geographic
Nat Geo's 'Rising Seas': The impact of carbon emissions on our environment
The cover of the September 2013 issue of National Geographic Magazine. © National Geographic

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