The causes of rising sea levels is in a state of continuous debate, but increasing scientific research suggests that human activity is at least partial, if not the predominate cause of the rapid rise in ocean levels worldwide. High concentrations of CO2 and other GHGs released into the atmosphere from human consumption, industrialization and manufacturing attribute to rising global temperatures, which is in turn absorbed by the sea, causing the warming and expansion of oceans. The detrimental effects of warming oceanic temperatures is multifaceted. It leads to ocean freshening as a result of melting glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic, which raises sea levels and it negatively impact on the survival of humans, flora, fauna and marine ecosystem. Furthermore, higher temperatures in global seas attribute to thermal expansion and eustatic rise, which is a key cause behind why the oceans are taking up more of the Earth’s surface. Thermal expansion also causes irreversible degradation of biodiversity and human habitat in coastal areas. Thus, this paper will explore how intensive human activity contributes to climate change which heats up sea temperatures and lead to ocean expansion and rising shore levels around the globe.
Over 95 percent of the global scientific community confirms that climate change is largely attributed by increasing emissions of heat trapping GHGs from human activity, which causes eustatic rise in the oceans. In the past 100 years, tide gauge readings and satellite measurements show that the Global Mean Sea Level (GMSL) has gradually risen between 10 to 20 centimeters. Moreover, research indicates that eustatic levels worldwide have risen at an average rate of 3.5 millimeters per year, since the start of the 1990s. This means that the rate of rising ocean levels within the past 20 years is double the average speed of the preceding 80 years. According to an article in Energy and Environment, satellite altimetry measurements show that the GMSL has risen approximately 2cm per year between 1992 and 2000. Moreover, the mean rate rose to 3.2 cm per year in 2003, 5 cm per year in 2008 and 6 cm per year at the present day. There are severe consequences of climate change and rising eustatic levels.
One of the key factors in rising sea levels is the melting of ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic due to warming average global temperatures. Researcher Thorarinsson suggests that after the last Little Ice Age (LIA) at the beginning of the 19th century, the Earth’s surface temperature rose which led to glaciers to recede and sea levels to rise. Between the mid-1800s and 1900s, a calculated eustatic rise of 0.5 mm per year was a direct correspondent of retreating ice caps. To be more precise, sea levels rose approximately 11 cm between the years of 1850 to 1950, and rapid rise of shore levels were the most evident in Northwestern Europe. Therefore, it can be speculated that the significant eustatic rise between the mid-19th to 20th century directly corresponds to the boom of the industrial and agricultural revolution that depended on intensive burning of fossil fuels. The above data offers proof that human activity plays a role in the rapidly rising global temperatures and rising shores levels.
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