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See what rising ocean levels will do to Canadian cities

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Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 4:55 PM - Climate change is already having an impact on ocean levels these days, which has contributed to the effects of flooding and storm surges, but in years to come, this rise will become a hazard unto itself.

There's been some sobering news from the 'climate change' front over the past week, with word of CO2 levels climbing to record heights, dire accounts of how climate change is affecting the United States and Canada now and the impacts that are to come, and just yesterday more news about the glaciers of West Antarctica reaching a 'point of no return' for an inevitable collapse in the centuries to come.

One of the major themes about all of this is how we're going to have to adapt to the coming changes, one of which is rising sea levels. In order to prepare us, the website World Under Water offers a simulated glimpse at what this might look like, as it uses Google street-views and some added flare to flood our neighbourhoods and favourite places around the world.

Downtown Halifax now

Downtown Halifax now

Downtown Halifax under several feet of water

Downtown Halifax under several feet of water

Downtown Vancouver, along W. Pender Street

Downtown Vancouver, along W. Pender Street

The same view of Downtown Vancouver, along a flooded W. Pender Street

The same view of Downtown Vancouver, along a flooded W. Pender Street

Coastal cities are the ones most in danger from the real-world flooding, but in this simulation no place is safe. Type any address or location into their search engine and you should be able to see it underwater, even if these areas are very unlikely to see rising water levels directly related to rising sea levels - due to their location, terrain or elevation.

Cities along the Great Lakes (like Toronto, shown at Dundas Square at the start of the video above) are also be shown flooded, but they're actually more likely to be high-and-dry due to climate change. Increased evaporation and generally-lower rainfall amounts through the Great Plains and Midwest are expected to cause water levels in the lakes to plummet. However, since more downpours of rain are already happening due to the changing climate, and it's expected that they will happen more often in the future, this kind of flooding could happen even in these areas, at least on a temporary basis. It's simply a matter of having too much water fall from the sky in a very short time, and we all saw quite dramatic examples of this in southern Alberta last June and in Toronto last July.

For the moment the World Under Water site is really just a bit of 'fun' to see what these places would look like under water. However, the site is trying to raise awareness of what we can expect in years to come, and hopefully inspire people to do something about it.

It may seem like an overwhelming problem that we can't do anything about by ourselves, but there's a very valuable and effective tool we all have access to here: our vote. If we vote the right people into office - those that take the threat of climate change seriously and are committed to taking effective action to reduce that threat - both now and in the future, we can overcome this problem. One of the greatest and most successful international scientific initiatives ever undertaken was when nations worldwide came together to sign the Montreal Protocol. The leaders of the time saw the dire threat the loss of our protective ozone layer represented, and because of their action we prevented the worst from happening, and there are even signs that the ozone layer is recovering. We need similar attitudes and action now to tackle the threat of climate change.

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