Weather Channel's Latest Immersive Video Reveals Future Of Below Sea Level America

Parts of Charleston, South Carolina, already 6 meters below sea level, are going to be permanently underwater by 2100. David AvRutic/Shutterstock

One of the biggest problems with trying to get people to care about climate change, enough to take action now, and not leave it until it's too late, is that it’s hard to imagine it in real terms. If people can’t understand how it will affect them personally, they wonder why they should care.

With that in mind, the Weather Channel has released a brand new immersive video that places you in a future in the grips of climate change to see exactly what it will be like.

No stranger to fighting climate change skeptics, last year the Weather Channel released an amazing video showing the devastating effects of storm surges from hurricanes, like Florence, which hit the Carolinas in September 2018. The biggest threat is the amount of rainfall they dump, creating immediate serious flooding.

This new video starts you off in Charleston, South Carolina in the year 2100, in the company of meteorologist Jen Carfagno. In 2100, Charleston is perpetually flooded and parts of the city are now uninhabitable.  

“Climate predictions from decades ago have come to fruition,” Carfagno says in the video. She’s not wrong. A 2018 study revealed that Charleston is one of the riskiest places to live in the southeast US. It’s on the coast, 6 meters (20 feet) below sea level. It’s predicted that the county will flood 26 times a year if sea levels rise 0.6 meters (2 feet) in the next three decades.

“Unfortunately, humans ignored the warnings, warnings that are visible now,” Carfagno adds, and we immediately whizz over to present-day Norfolk, Virginia – home of the largest naval base in the US – which already experiences regular flooding.

Norfolk has one of the fastest rates of sea level rise in the US, half a foot since 1992, which is twice as fast as the global average. Over the last 20 years, it has experienced twice as many days of tidal flooding than in the previous three decades. 

"Over the past 100 years, seas here have risen around one and a half feet partly because of what's happening thousands of miles away, where the warning signs are the largest: the Arctic, the fastest-warming area on Earth," Carfagno explains, as we suddenly drop down onto a rocky outcrop in west Greenland, right in front of the Jacobshavn glacier.

This glacier has been shedding ice at an unprecedented rate for the last two decades. Carfagno takes us back 150 years as we watch the ice appear to grow until it reaches volumes recorded in 1851, 25 miles and thousands of feet higher than where we started. It’s a stunning way to show how much ice has been lost already, and that the effects of climate change are already in full swing, whether you believe in it or not.

“We’re always trying to figure out a way to tell climate change in a way that resonates with people, and it’s extremely difficult,” Nick Weinmiller, Weather Channel creative art director, told Wired.

“People tend to ignore things that aren’t happening right now, where they can’t quantify how it’s affecting them. We’re constantly trying to find that story for climate change that can get people to understand what’s going on and to listen to the science.”

The video isn’t even a worst-case scenario, which the makers thought may be misconstrued as overly dramatic, but it does stick to the higher end predictions using verified data from NOAA and the IPCC. It doesn't, however, mention the cause of this climate change ie greenhouse gas emissions by humans, which you may think is a rather large omission, nor does it encourage a call to arms – though there's only so much you can fit into a 2-minute segment. However, visualization is a very powerful tool, and anything that helps people imagine a very real future before it's too late is worth a shot. 

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