How does Switching on the Kettle Contribute to Sea Level Rise?
Adapted from: George Monbiot, The Guardian Weekly, 10 February 2000): ‘Every time someone in the West switches on a kettle, he or she is helping to flood Bangladesh’

Switching on the Kettle

‘Switching on a kettle’ is linked to sea-level rise by the following chain of ‘cause-and-effect’ relationships:

• burning fossil fuels (e.g. in a power station) causes the release of CO2 to the atmosphere;

• and has resulted in a build up of the gas since pre-industrial times;

• the effect is a temporary reduction in the longwave emission to space, disturbing the radiation balance at the top of the atmosphere and producing a positive radiative forcing of climate;

• which has a warming effect, causing an increase in GMST;

• higher temperatures, in turn, cause the thermal expansion of seawater and the melting of land ice;

• increasing the volume of water in the ocean, and leading to sea-level rise.

Many of the links in this chain are not that simple. For example, burning fossil fuels releases particulate matter as well, and that acts to partially offset greenhouse warming. Equally, there are ‘time lags’ between climate warming and the melting of land ice. And so on.

‘Global Warming’. An OpenLearn chunk used/reworked by permission of The Open University copyright © (2007).’