Video Summary

[RSTV The Big Picture] Rising Oceans, Sinking Cities

According to a draft report of United Nations Intergovernmental Penal on Climate Change, destructive changes have already been set in motion as by the year 2050 many low lying megacities and small island nations will experience extreme sea level events every year.
By IT's Video Summary Team
September 09, 2019


  • Introduction
  • Current Climate Scenario
  • Adverse effects of Climate change
  • Paris Climate agreement
  • What needs to be done?
  • Conclusion


[RSTV The Big Picture] Rising Oceans, Sinking Cities

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  • Oceans act as a sponge for the ill effects of the climate change by absorbing heat and CO2 generated by greenhouse gas emissions.
  • However as per draft report of United Nations Intergovernmental Penal on Climate Change (IPCC), named Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC), even with most optimistic emission reduction scenario, by the year 2050 many low lying megacities and small island nations will experience extreme sea level events every year.
  • Report says that USA, China, India and European Union will face most devastating fall out of the ocean and ice related impacts of climate change.

Current Climate Scenario

  • The increasing number of cyclones are very clear indication of adverse future climate effects.
  • 400 million tons of ice is melting every year from last ten years, increasing the volume of water in oceans.
  • Along with the increase in temperature resulting in increase in volume of the sea, changing pattern of windfall and rain amounts to surge in ocean water.
  • From the last ten years, oceans are facing heat waves. Heat wave can be described as a situation in which the surface temperature of sea remains above normal for 2-5 consecutive days. This heat waves are likely to increase in future.
  • Lot of the mitigation action that should have been taken in the past years has failed to occur which means that we have to adapt rather than to mitigate it. However, the costs of that adaptation are extremely uncertain. Under the Paris agreement, there is a commitment to finance 100 billion dollars each year till 2020. However, there is a shortfall of 50 or 60 million dollars.
  • Paris agreement and the kind of rigor that world was expecting is losing its force. For instance, US President skipped the G-7 Climate summit held in Biarritz, France.
  • China is also losing its grip and the vigor on climate issues as they are opening up new coal mines. in order to keep the economy moving due to trade war, their pollution control is now slamming.
  • There is a close relationship between water, land and cryosphere. This relationship has not been adequately appreciated.
  • Climate change issues have largely attracted attention to the emission alone, without really bothering about the implication that it has on other systems.
  • Oceans covered 3/4th of the globe and large number of fishermen is dependent upon ocean. Oceans have been very badly abused worldwide due to the warming, changes in ocean chemistry, oil spill etc.
  • The city of Manhattan in USA is one of the seriously threatened area due to rising sea. The government is giving a false hope that they will be able to raise a wall to protect city but one-meter sea rise will simply wash off all things.
  • The recent amazon forest fire in Brazil and Canada’s ignorant behavior towards climate change (recent re-approval of Trans Mountain Pipeline by ignoring climate issues) shows the development centric polices by ignoring the climate change impact. It is surprising that all these kind of scenarios are growing after Paris Climate agreement.
  • If this kind of a situation is going to prevail, it will be difficult to achieve Sustainable Goals by 2030.

Adverse effects of Climate change


  • Many of the mega cities of India have low lying areas largely occupied by poor people. The increase in ocean level will force them to migrate to hinterland.
  • Due to climate change, very large population, called as ‘Ecological Refuges’ is going to be evacuated.
  • When a small population migrates from one place to another, it creates a political upheaval. However, when large population migrates, it will create reverberations around the world. No government in the world is prepared nor have even assessed that what does it mean and how to tackle huge migration.

Victimization of small island countries

  • The victims of the climate change, created by the major emitters of world, will be small island countries.
  • For instance, Kiribati is expected to get wiped out and they are looking for land to migrate. Indonesia, a low lying city, has recently announced to move its capital from Java to Borneo as Jakarta is likely to sink into the Java Sea.

Pollution generated by China

  • Among four major emitters of world (USA, China, India and European Union), India is not a major emitter in terms of overall quantity or even in terms of per capita emissions.
  • However, the problem is that China’s emission are quite high. This could result in rising sea level near Indian coasts. China is the second largest emitter after USA.
  • Even in terms of per capita emissions, China’s emissions are now touching the average emissions of per capita emission of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.
  • A Provision in Paris Agreement requires developed countries to set a quantified goal for delivery of climate finance by 2023. However, China says that it will achieve its goal in 2025. This will, of course, not make any significant impact as china should have started its efforts earlier.

Paris Climate agreement

  • Paris Agreement Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international treaty, adopted in December 2015, which aimed to reduce the emission of gases that contribute to global warming.
  • The Paris Agreement’s says that the increase in global average temperature should be below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and aims to limit the increase to 1.5 °C.
  • The IPCC draft report says that even if the countries meet the targets of capping the emissions under Paris agreement, the adverse climate event in 2050 or 2100 will happen irrespectively.
  • Unlike Koyoto Protocol, the Paris climate agreement did not adopt capping and the fixing targets procedure.
  • The first Kyoto Protocol phase between 2005 and 2012 had given targets of reducing emissions by 5% to the industrialized countries, while 2nd phase gave 18% reduction target. However, it was not achieved. Hence, Paris agreements introduced the Pledge and review system instead of setting targets.

What needs to be done?

  • It is clear that the sea level will be rising in future. Hence, the need of the hour is to deliberate on how to take care of the migrating population, what kind of efforts are required and what kind of estimates are required.
  • Apart from adaptation to the adverse climate change effects, there is also need to see whether we can delay the effects of climate changes. However, India is doing well in terms of promoting non fossil fuels. Also, it has already met the solar installed capacity target.
  • Worldwide, due to the loss of jobs, government are giving push to the automobile industries, which are harmful for the environment. India already have an excellent network of railways and they are far less polluting and occupy less space than road transport. Hence, India can meet its development needs much more cheaply and in environment friendly manner by upgrading its rail network.
  • The oil rich countries need to join the effort in addressing climate change issue more aggressively.
  • National government should work on empowering local communities by moving funds to coastal communities which are vulnerable to climate change issues.
  • India needs to take action to pressure other governments to act. India need to take leadership role in terms of the diplomacy on climate change issue. For instance, knowing that it will be one of the worst-affected by climate change, India has pioneered the International Solar Alliance group to spread awareness on solar globally.


  • Governments are not ready to face the challenge that has been posed by the rising oceans. There is hardly any preparation by any country around the world which can really say that they are making their coasts safe.
  • One of the last year report of IPCC said that the global temperature can restricted to 1.5C if the serious actions are taken now. However, the seriousness of climate change, including rising sea levels, need to be understood in proper manner.
  • From the past climate reports, it is clear that the impacts of climate change are not only borne by developing countries but by developed countries as well, which hopefully pushes political action on climate change.
  • India has to calibrate its development to ensure that it does not follow and take the same trajectory as taken by the industrialized countries.


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