Republican Delegate Candidate for Virginia Scott Pio recently floated an odd solution to increasing sea levels up the flagpole, reminiscent of Zoolander’s “what is this, a center for ants?!!” The original Tweet that floated the concept has since deleted, but Raw Story, who included a snapshot of shipping traffic, luckily immortalized it. Anyone who has bravely climbed into a nearly overflowing bath only to have a tremendous tsunami of lavender-scented water cascade onto the floor would appreciate Pio’s point. When you think about it, the world’s seas are similar to a bath: a massive, enclosed (inside the planet) body of water that is on the verge of becoming unbearably hot, so, instead of destroying all the toys, why not reduce the rising levels?
While Pio’s advice was probably not as literal as The Internet took it, we at IFLScience admire anyone who is prepared to take a wild idea and run with it (remember the Great Chicken Slap Cook-Off?). Was there anyone out there who was crazy enough to do the math on this? Enter Randall Munroe, the creator of the XKCD comic strip.
After considering the breadth of the Earth’s five oceans and the relative dodiness of the hundreds of thousands of boats that populate them, Munroe calculated that plucking them all out would result in a reduction of roughly… drum roll please… 6 microns!
That is about the breadth of a spider’s silk thread, and I believe you will agree that it is well worth pausing world marine trade for; we are being facetious, in case your computer screen is not already oozing with sarcasm. Munroe went on to say that based on current sea-level rise estimates, this volume would replace in around 16 hours, proving the futility of eliminating ships. If not boats, then, what about fish. The oceans’ do have loads of fish, right. Munroe has your back there, too.
“Given that current fish wet biomass is over 2 billion tons,” they added, “removing them won’t make a dent either.” “How about that old joke about how much deeper the water would be if sponges didn’t exist?” While estimates of sponge biomass are difficult to come by, it is likely that removing all the sponges would only lower sea level by a few microns… and even less if, they were squeezed out first. Everyone should go back to the drawing board.