One of the most omnipresent effects of environmental degradation is the rise of sea levels around the world. It is one of the most impactful effects of environmental collapse on human civilizations, as many coastal and low-lying cities and settlements are affected every year. But the rise of sea levels is also symptomatic of larger negative effects on the ocean as an ecosystem, affecting everyone and everything that draws life from it.

As sea levels continue to rise, more land becomes submerged and coastlines will retreat. This will have a significant impact on human populations, as 70% of people on Earth live within 100 miles of an ocean or sea. Population shifts and forced relocation will affect coastal dwellings from the size of small beach towns to megacities including New York, Dubai, and Singapore, to name a few.

Sea levels rise as a result of melting ice caps at the northern and southern poles of the Earth. As these glaciers melt, not only do the overall water levels in the ocean rise, but the chemical make-up of the oceans also changes. The salinity of the oceans is affected by the introduction of previously-frozen fresh water, causing habitat interruption and changes to many species’ daily lives.