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With his French-tinged lilt, Curole points to places where these bayous, swamps, and fishing villages portend a warmer world: his high school girlfriend's house partly submerged, a cemetery with water lapping against the white tombs, his grandfather's former hunting camp now afloat in a stand of skeleton oak snags."We live in a place of almost land, almost water," says the 52-year-old Curole."Things that normally happen in geologic time are happening during the span of a human lifetime," says Fagre.

The scenarios are disturbing even in wealthy countries like the Netherlands, with nearly half its landmass already at or below sea level. Bruce Douglas, a coastal researcher at Florida International University, calculates that every inch of sea-level rise could result in eight feet of horizontal retreat of sandy beach shorelines due to erosion.

Furthermore, when salt water intrudes into freshwater aquifers, it threatens sources of drinking water and makes raising crops problematic.

Never before have so many humans lived so close to the coasts: More than a hundred million people worldwide live within three feet of mean sea level.

Vulnerable to sea-level rise, Tuvalu, a small country in the South Pacific, has already begun formulating evacuation plans.

Scientists point out that sea levels have risen and fallen substantially over Earth's 4.6-billion-year history.

But the recent rate of global sea level rise has departed from the average rate of the past two to three thousand years and is rising more rapidly—about one-tenth of an inch (about one-fourth of a centimeter) a year.Glaciers in the Garhwal Himalaya in India are retreating so fast that researchers believe that most central and eastern Himalayan glaciers could virtually disappear by 2035.Arctic sea ice has thinned significantly over the past half century, and its extent has declined by about 10 percent in the past 30 years.Megacities where human populations have concentrated near coastal plains or river deltas—Shanghai, Bangkok, Jakarta, Tokyo, and New York—are at risk.The projected economic and humanitarian impacts on low-lying, densely populated, and desperately poor countries like Bangladesh are potentially catastrophic.When temperatures rise and ice melts, more water flows to the seas from glaciers and ice caps, and ocean water warms and expands in volume.

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