Category Archives: Sea Level Rise

King Tide: The Sinking of Tuvalu

A film documentary by Juriaan Booij

Tuvalu is one of the smallest and most remote countries on earth. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it can barely be seen on most maps. The country is in danger of disappearing beneath the waves. Not an Atlantis myth but the reality of this century. Plans for evacuation are being made right now. Tuvalu is destined to become one of earth’s first nations to be washed away due to the effect of global warming, making the Tuvaluans the first complete nation of climate refugees, banned from their home-islands, their culture and identity taken away.

Beyond the appearance of an easygoing life, the threat to Tuvalu’s future is an obvious danger that everyone has been forced to recognize. The highest point of Tuvalu is only four and a half meters above sea level. The average elevation is not even two.

But still, in spite of the evidence, many people in Tuvalu don’t believe they will be forced to leave, and point to their bibles for proof. In the deeply Christian country, great faith is placed in the words of Genesis, which says that rainbows are proof God is keeping his covenant made with Noah to never again flood the earth. What is going to happen to a nation without their home islands to anchor what is left of their culture?

The King Tide of Tuvalu Website

Tuvalu struggles to hold back tide, BBC
The fragile strips of green that make up the small islands of Tuvalu are incredibly beautiful but also incredibly vulnerable.The group of nine tiny islands in the South Pacific only just break the surface of the ocean, but for how much longer?

King Tide Pacific Islands States
A young girl watches waves crash over a sea-wall during a king tide in Kiribati. Photo Source: Reuters/Greenpeace

The Voices of the South Pacific

The View From Beneath the Waves

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The floods can be fun for children, but what does the future hold? Photo Source: Greenpeace

Alliance between the Arctic and Tropics

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Tree Roots on Eroded Beach, Barbados. Photo Source: Flick’r

Excerpts;

While waters around south Baffin Island and Nunavik remained ice-free this past January, people who live more than 5,000 kilometres away to the south on the island of Barbados grappled with another problem generated by climate change: too much water.

Baffin Island in the Canadian territory of Nunavut is the largest member of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. It is the largest island in Canada and the fifth largest island in the world, with an area of 507,451 km2.

No wonder “you melt, we sink” is the nightmare that unites 43 small developing island nations of the world and Arctic organizations in their fight against climate change through a coalition called Many Strong Voices.

Its common goal is to keep temperature increases in check, so the North stays frozen and the islands stay above sea level.

Although some could see this alliance between the Arctic and tropics as strange, the connection makes sense to Kirt Ejetsiak of Iqaluit, vice-president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, who spoke at an MSV event at last December’s United Nations climate change conference in Cancun.

“I believe that it’s only by working together to lobby the various governments and UN agencies that we can get our message across. It’s an unusual alliance but one that fits naturally in my view,” Ejetsiak told Nunatsiaq News. “We must find our similarities and connections rather than our differences and work together.”

Like the Arctic, small island nations account for a tiny percentage of world energy consumption and produce low levels of climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet they’re already threatened by the same kind of unpredictable weather, storms and erosion due to the changing climate that has some Alaskan villages relocating inland.

You can see these environmental impacts happening now in Barbados, the most easterly of the Caribbean islands, with 97 km of coastline and a population of about 280,000, mainly the descendants of slaves brought from Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries to work in sugar plantations…

Read Full Article, By Jane George/ Nutnatsiaq

Last Chance Beach, Battling Erosion in Barbados

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Eroding Beach, Mullins Bay. Photo Source: Barbados Free Press

Last Chance Beach, Mullins Bay, Barbados

By Peter J. Frank

Most islands in the Caribbean suffer erosion to a certain degree, much of it from natural causes. Barbados, a country dependent on tourism, knows it needs to protect its beaches, but some of its attempts to do so end up making matters worse. Local environmental activists contend that in several places along Barbados’s west shore—the famed Platinum Coast, lined with luxury hotels, condos, and expensive homes—erosion has been exacerbated by the construction of seawalls and groins.

On the island’s northwest coast, sunbathers used to be able to walk from the popular beach bar on Mullins Beach north for several miles up the sandy shore. Now, there are only impassable boulders, sea walls, and crashing surf. The author of the local Mullins Bay blog blames the construction of three stone groins at St. Peter’s Bay, a new condominium development a quarter mile north of Mullins Beach. Installed ostensibly to help build up the beach there, the structures have sapped the adjacent shoreline of sand. Surprisingly, Barbados’s Coastal Zone Management Unit, a government agency charged with controlling erosion, approved the groins. It maintains that global warming is the main culprit in the island’s erosion problem. Rising sea levels and severe storms certainly play a role, but to protect its shoreline, Barbados also needs to balance the demands of development and preservation.

Original Article

Barbados Looks to Beaches as First Line of Defence, IPS


Battling Beach erosion: Barbados

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Clinketts Beach, Barbados North Coast. Photo Source: Green Antilles

As surely as the coastline draws people and development, it brings on its own destruction.

On the island nation of Barbados, particularly on its developed west coast, the major problem is beach erosion. This is a serious concern anywhere, but particularly so when tourism is the country’s number one industry. The causes are complex. Tourist hotels themselves are partly to blame because over the years their owners have built structures to trap sand, which prevents its migration further down the coast to other areas.

But the most serious threat to the beaches is the loss of offshore coral reefs through pollution, primarily caused by domestic sewage. As the reefs die, they lose their ability to reduce the energy and erosive force of incoming waves.

Into this complex scenario of cause and effect stepped the IDB-financed Barbados Coastal Conservation Program. Drawing on previous studies and surveys, the program has put in place a genuinely integrated approach that over the years has combined research, pollution control and anti-erosion measures with institutional and legal mechanisms to control coastal development and prepare a national coastal zone management plan. Meanwhile, the country has made significant progress in reducing pollution with a series of sewage treatment systems and solid waste disposal plants.

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Barbados, Bathsheba Surf Beach. Photo Source: Barbados Free Press

Barbados, Coastal Management Unit

Sea wall and loss of beach sand, Clinketts Beach, Barbados

Sundarbans’ Tigers Further Pushed Towards Extinction by Rising Sea Levels

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Photo Source: 44-D, Flick’r

Excerpt from the WWF

One of the world’s largest tiger populations could disappear by the end of this century as rising sea levels caused by climate change destroy their habitat along the coast of Bangladesh in an area known as the Sundarbans, according to a 2010 WWF-led study, published in the journal Climatic Change.

Tigers are among the world’s most threatened species, with only an estimated 3,200 remaining in the wild. WWF officials said the threats facing these Royal Bengal tigers and other iconic species around the world highlight the need for urgent international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“If we don’t take steps to address the impacts of climate change on the Sundarbans, the only way its tigers will survive this century is with scuba gear,” said Colby Loucks, WWF-US deputy director of conservation science and the lead author of the study Sea Level Rise and Tigers: Predicted Impacts to Bangladesh’s Sundarbans Mangroves. “Tigers are a highly adaptable species, thriving from the snowy forests of Russia to the tropical forests of Indonesia.

“The projected sea level rise in the Sundarbans will likely outpace the tiger’s ability to adapt.”

An expected sea level rise of 28 cm above 2000 levels may cause the remaining tiger habitat in the Sundarbans to decline by 96 percent, pushing the total population to fewer than 20 breeding tigers, according to the study.

Unless immediate action is taken, the Sundarbans, its wildlife and the natural resources that sustain millions of people may disappear within 50 to 90 years, the study states.

“The mangrove forest of the Bengal tiger now joins the sea-ice of the polar bear as one of the habitats most immediately threatened as global temperatures rise during the course of this century,” said Keya Chatterjee, acting director of the WWF-US climate change program. “To avert an ecological catastrophe on a much larger scale, we must sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change we failed to avoid.”

The Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site shared by India and Bangladesh at the mouth of the Ganges River, is the world’s largest single block of mangrove forest. Mangroves are found at the inter-tidal region between land and sea, and not only serve as breeding grounds for fish but help protect coastal regions from natural disasters such as cyclones, storm surges and wind damage.

Providing the habitat for between 250 and 400 tigers, the Sundarbans is also home to more than 50 reptile species, 120 commercial fish species, 300 bird species and 45 mammal species. While their exact numbers are unclear, the tigers living in the Sundarbans of India and Bangladesh may represent as many as 10 percent of all the remaining wild tigers worldwide.

Using the rates of sea level rise projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Fourth Assessment Report (2007), the study’s authors wrote that a 28 cm sea level rise may be realized around 2070, at which point tigers will be unlikely to survive in the Sundarbans. However, recent research suggests that the seas may rise even more swiftly than what was predicted in the 2007 IPCC assessment.

sundarbans-map

This satellite image shows the forest in the protected area. The Sundarbans appears deep green, surrounded to the north by a landscape of agricultural lands, which appear lighter green, towns, which appear tan, and streams, which are blue. Ponds for shrimp aquaculture, especially in Bangladesh, sit right at the edge of the protected area, a potential problem for the water quality and biodiversity of the area. The forest may also be under stress from environmental disturbance occurring thousands of kilometers away, such as deforestation in the Himalaya Mountains far to the north. Image and caption: Wikipedia.

In addition to climate change, the Sundarbans tigers, like other tiger populations around the world already face tremendous threats from poaching and habitat loss. Tiger ranges have decreased by 40 percent over the past decade, and tigers today occupy less than seven percent of their original range. Scientists fear that accelerating deforestation and rampant poaching could push some tiger populations to the same fate as their now-extinct Javan and Balinese relatives in other parts of Asia.

Tigers are poached for their highly prized skins and body parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. The 2010 Year of the Tiger marked an important year for conservation efforts to save wild tigers, with WWF continuing to play a vital role in implementing bold new strategies to save this magnificent Asian big cat.

Recommendations in the study include:

· Locally, governments and natural resource managers should take immediate steps to conserve and expand mangroves while preventing poaching and retaliatory killing of tigers.

· Regionally, neighboring countries should increase sediment delivery and freshwater flows to the coastal region to support agriculture and replenishment of the land;

· Globally, governments should take stronger action to limit greenhouse gas emissions;

“It’s disheartening to imagine that the Sundarbans, which means ‘beautiful forest’ in Bengali, could be gone this century, along with its tigers,” Loucks said. “We very much hope that in this, the Year of the Tiger, the world will focus on curtailing the immediate threats to these magnificent creatures and preparing for the long-term impacts of climate change.”

Original Article

The original report: Sea level rise and tigers: predicted impacts to Bangladesh’s Sundarbans mangroves, PDF File

Sinking Sundarbans, A Photo Gallery By Peter Caton

Bangladesh’s Project to Develop and Protect Southern Coastal Region

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Bangladesh Coastal Erosion. Photo Source: Laman/National Geographic Image Collection

Excerpt from The Financial Express, Dredging Today

Bangladesh’s coastal area covers about 20% of the country and over thirty percent of the net cultivable area. It extends inside up to 150 km from the coast. Out of 2.85 million hectares of the coastal and offshore areas about 0.83 millions hectares are arable lands, which cover over 30% of the total cultivable lands of Bangladesh. A part of the coastal area, the Sundarbans, is a reserve natural mangrove forest covering about 4,500 km2. The remaining part of the coastal area is used in agriculture. The cultivable areas in coastal districts are affected with varying degrees of soil salinity. The coastal and offshore area of Bangladesh includes tidal, estuaries and river floodplains in the south along the Bay of Bengal.

Barisal division, Khulna division, and some districtsin the Patuakhali and Noakhali areas, form the southern region of Bangladesh. The greater part of this region that roughly is equally to one fourth of the country spatially, is coastal in nature or relatively closer to the sea than other regions. It shares common economic prospects and challenges. The vast region is expected to be affected by the worldwide climate change. The southern region of Bangladesh is already undergoing the adverse effects of interventions in the free-flow of waters.

Structures built on the other side across the border have adversely affected the free flow of river waters into lower riparian Bangladesh. Already, there is an alarming fall in such flows, impacting very unfavourably the environment, ecology, habitat and people’s livelihood, particularly in the district of Khulna. The saline sea waters have been pushing up inland because of the poor flow in the rivers that cannot adequately flush out the sea waters. Big areas near the coasts have been affected by salinity and progressively more and more areas are meeting a similar fate.

Not only salinity, the leaner flow in the rivers of the southern region has also meant faster deposition of silt and the raising of their beds. Thus, the rivers across the region needs comprehensive dredging. Two consequences can be expected from such dredging. The flows in them could improve having a better effect in reducing salinity. Flood protection to some extent may also be achieved from the same. Government in Bangladesh appears to have firmed up a plan to engage in thorough river dredging in this area.

Salinity is not only threatening agriculture in the area, it is also posing as a serious threat to various flora and fauna in the Sunderbans forest which Bangladesh is otherwise proud of, as one of its great possessions.

Salinity has been such a problem for the region that in large tracts of what had been once cultivable lands, nothing of much value grows nowadays. People on a large scale were pushed to the brink and migrated to other areas of the country. The saline taste of even the underground tubewell water is a risk to public health. Thus, apart from river dredging, it should be planned whether fresh water from other areas of the country can be diverted to this region. Preservation and use of rain water need to be promoted here. Success was achieved in recent years in developing new and study varieties of rice plants that can grow well even under saline conditions. These varieties of rice and their cultivation will have to be popularized in this region. Storms and surges from the sea also pose big threats. Clearly, any overall plan for the development of the southern region, must incorporate the building of coastal embankments, sea walls, etc., both to hedge people against storms like the devastating storm, Alia and also from the looming threat of sea-level rise. Bangladesh is expected to be a major recipient of funds from donors to protect itself from climate change. A big part of such funds should be spent in the southern area considering its special vulnerabilities.

In this context, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina spoke about an integrated plan for the development of the southern region. For any plan for development of the southern region cannot be isolated in its parts. All segments under a comprehensive plan must be simultaneously attempted or integrated to get the best results. All concerned would now expect the government to firm up actions for such an area-focused comprehensive plan of action in an integrated way in order to help reverse the present situation in the region of the country and to provide a strong base for its steady and sustained growth.

Original Article

Salinity Problems In Coastal Regions of Bangladesh

Finding Sustainable Ways to Cope With Sea Level Rise, in Coastal Care

68 Percent of New England and Mid-Atlantic Beaches Are Eroding

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Considerable beach erosion at Surf City, New Jersey. Photo Source: Jim Phillips

By Cheryl Hapke, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey

An assessment of coastal change over the past 150 years has found 68 percent of beaches in the New England and Mid-Atlantic region are eroding, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report released February 23rd.

Scientists studied more than 650 miles of the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts and found the average rate of coastal change, taking into account beaches that are both eroding and prograding, was negative 1.6 feet per year.

Of those beaches eroding, the most extreme case exceeded 60 feet per year.

The past 25 to 30 years saw a small reduction in the percentage of beaches eroding, dropping to 60 percent, possibly as a result of beach restoration activities such as adding sand to beaches.

“This report provides invaluable objective data to help scientists and managers better understand natural changes to and human impacts on the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts,” said Anne Castle, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science. “The information gathered can inform decisions about future land use, transportation corridors, and restoration projects.”

Beaches change in response to a variety of factors, including changes in the amount of available sand, storms, sea-level rise and human activities. How much a beach is eroding or prograding in any given location is due to some combination of these factors, which vary from place to place.

The Mid-Atlantic coast, from Long Island, N.Y. to the Virginia-North Carolina border, is eroding at higher average rates than the New England coast. The difference in the type of coastline, with sandy areas being more vulnerable to erosion than areas with a greater concentration of rocky coasts, was the primary factor.

The researchers found that, although coastal change is highly variable, the majority of the coast is eroding throughout both regions, indicating erosion hazards are widespread.

“There is increasing need for this kind of comprehensive assessment in all coastal environments to guide managed response to sea-level rise,” said Dr. Cheryl Hapke of the USGS, lead author of the new report.”It is very difficult to predict what may happen in the future without a solid understanding of what has happened in the past.”

The researchers used historical data sources such as maps and aerial photographs, as well as modern data like lidar, or “light detection and ranging,” to measure shoreline change at more than 21,000 locations.

This analysis of past and present trends of shoreline movement is designed to allow for future repeatable analyses of shoreline movement, coastal erosion, and land loss. The results of the study provide a baseline for coastal change information that can be used to inform a wide variety of coastal management decisions, Hapke said.

The report, titled “National Assessment of Shoreline Change: Historical Shoreline Change along the New England and Mid-Atlantic Coasts,” is the fifth report produced as part of the USGS’s National Assessment of Shoreline Change project. An accompanying report that provides the geographic information system (GIS) data used to conduct the coastal change analysis is being released simultaneously.

Original Article

50 million environmental refugees by 2020, experts say

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A boat full of illegal immigrants enters the port of the Italian island of Lampedusa escorted by a Coast Guard vessel on February 20. Photo Source: AFP/File/Roberto Salomone

Excerpts;

Fifty million environmental refugees will flood into the global north by 2020, fleeing sparked by climate change, experts warned at a major science conference that ended Monday.

“In 2020, the UN has projected that we will have 50 million environmental refugees,” University of California, Los Angeles professor Cristina Tirado said at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Read Full Article, PhysOrg

The Human Face Of Climate Change, in Coastal Care

If An Island Vanishes Is It Still a Nation?, in Coastal Care

Is Climate Change Disinformation a Crime Against Humanity?, in Coastal Care

Rising Seas Will Affect Major U.S. Coastal Cities by 2100

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This map shows where increases in sea level could affect the southern and Gulf coasts of the US. The colors indicate areas along the coast that are elevations of 1 meter or less (russet) or 6 meters or less (yellow) and have connectivity to the sea. Caption and Photo Source: Jeremy Weiss, University of Arizona

Excerpts;

Rising sea levels could threaten an average of 9 percent of the land within 180 U.S. coastal cities by 2100, according to new research led by University of Arizona scientists.

The Gulf and southern Atlantic coasts could be particularly hard hit. Miami, New Orleans, Tampa, Fla., and Virginia Beach, Va. could lose more than 10 percent of their land area by 2100.

The research is the first analysis of vulnerability to sea-level rise that includes every U.S. coastal city in the lower 48 with a population of 50,000 or more.

The latest scientific projections indicate that by 2100, the sea level will rise about 1 meter – or even more. One meter is about 3 feet.

At the current rate of global warming, sea level is projected to continue rising after 2100 by as much as 1 meter per century…

Read Full Article, University Of Arizona

If Greenhouse Gas Emissions Stopped Now, Earth Would Still Likely Get Warmer

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Photo Source: Karl Dolenc

Excerpt from The university Of Washington

While governments debate about potential policies that might curb the emission of greenhouse gases, new University of Washington research shows that the world is already committed to a warmer climate because of emissions that have occurred up to now.

There would continue to be warming even if the most stringent policy proposals were adopted, because there still would be some emission of heat, trapping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. But the new research shows that even if all emissions were stopped now, temperatures would remain higher than pre-Industrial Revolution levels because the greenhouse gases already emitted are likely to persist in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

In fact, it is possible temperatures would continue to escalate even if all cars, heating and cooling systems and other sources of greenhouse gases were suddenly eliminated, said Kyle Armour, a UW doctoral student in physics. That’s because tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols, which tend to counteract the effect of greenhouse warming by reflecting sunlight back into space, would last only a matter of weeks once emissions stopped, while the greenhouse gases would continue on.

“The aerosols would wash out quickly and then we would see an abrupt rise in temperatures over several decades,” he said.
Armour is the lead author of a paper documenting the research, published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. His co-author is Gerard Roe, a UW associate professor of Earth and space sciences.

The global temperature is already about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than it was before the Industrial Revolution, which began around the start of the 19th century. The scientists’ calculations took into account the observed warming, as well as the known levels of greenhouse gases and aerosols already emitted to see what might happen if all emissions associated with industrialization suddenly stopped.

In the best-case scenario, the global temperature would actually decline, but it would remain about a half-degree F higher than pre-Industrial Revolution levels and probably would not drop to those levels again, Armour said.

There also is a possibility temperatures would rise to 3.5 degrees F higher than before the Industrial Revolution, a threshold at which climate scientists say significant climate-related damage begins to occur.

Of course it is not realistic to expect all emissions to cease suddenly, and Armour notes that the overall effect of aerosols, particles of sea salt or soot from burning fossil fuels, for example, is perhaps the largest uncertainty in climate research.
But uncertainties do not lessen the importance of the findings, he said. The scientists are confident, from the results of equations they used, that some warming would have to occur even if all emissions stopped now. But there are more uncertainties, and thus a lower confidence level, associated with larger temperature increases.

Climate models used in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments take into consideration a much narrower range of the possible aerosol effects, or “forcings,” than are supported by actual climate observations, Armour said. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning panel, sponsored by the United Nations, makes periodic assessments of climate change and is in the process of compiling its next report.

As emissions of greenhouse gases continue, the “climate commitment” to a warmer planet only goes up, Armour said. He believes it is helpful for policy makers to understand that level of commitment. It also will be helpful for them to understand that, while some warming is assured, uncertainties in current climate observations, such as the full effect of aerosols, mean the warming could be greater than models suggest.

“This is not an argument to say we should keep emitting aerosols,” he said. “It is an argument that we should be smart in how we stop emitting. And it’s a call to action because we know the warming we are committed to from what we have emitted already and the longer we keep emitting the worse it gets.”

Original Article

Thawing Permafrost and Accelerated CO2 Emission