A study published by the University of Madison, Wisconsin has found that it’s not only the physical environment that will be lost as a result of climate change but the entire Internet could be at stake. Rising sea levels will damage the underwater fibre optics cables which provide Internet connection to major US cities such as New York and Miami.

The study authors wrote that “4,067 miles of fibre conduit will be under water and 1,101 nodes will be surrounded by water in the next 15 years.”

This change to the surroundings of the physical Internet infrastructure could cause long-lasting destruction which will be difficult to repair or reverse.

One of the study authors, Professor Paul Barford, said that most of the damage that will be done because of climate change in the next 100 years will happen sooner rather than later:

“That surprised us. The expectation was that we’d have 50 years to plan for it. We don’t have 50 years.”

The current Internet architecture was installed around 25 years ago with no consideration as to how the physical geography of the coastline would be affected by climate change.

According to the study, the most at-risk cables were those at sea-level which are close to becoming submerged. So what can we do about it?

“The first instinct will be to harden the infrastructure,” claims Professor Barford, “But keeping the sea at bay is hard. We can probably buy a little time, but in the long run, it’s just not going to be effective.”

The study authors explore the possibility of sea defences such as sea walls becoming the solution to submerging Internet cables. There doesn’t seem to be a long-lasting, sustainable solution to the problem just yet but the thought of the Internet ceasing to exist because of climate change should be a huge wake-up call.