Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pacific islands seek low-cost storm protection

From: Reuters

* Pacific states trying to protect crops, coasts
* Cyclones seen as bigger threat for now than rising seas
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
BONN, Germany, June 4 (Reuters) - Pacific islands are trying low-cost ways to protect crops and coasts from cyclones that are a bigger threat -- for now -- than rising sea levels that could wipe low-lying nations off the map.
Pacific island delegates at June 1-12 talks in Bonn working on a new U.N. climate treaty say that shifting storm patterns linked to global warming are stoking more "king tides" which bring salt water onto farmland and into fresh water supplies.
"Our immediate concern is cyclones," said Ian Fry, representing Tuvalu which is among the most vulnerable with an average height of 2 metres (6 ft 6 in) above sea level.
"We're careful to say that the damage is not happening because of rising sea levels - yet," he said.
Many islands are turning to low-cost techniques such as growing taro, a staple food, in pots or small concrete beds to avoid salt intrusion.
"We are also planting mangroves along the coast, that works on some islands as a protective barrier," said Cindy Ehmes, of the Federated States of Micronesia. States lack cash to build barriers against erosion or rising seas.
And several states in the western Pacific are also trying to improve management of reefs to safeguard fish stocks, partly if farmland shrinks. One goal is to protect at least 30 percent of near-shore marine resources by 2020 off Micronesia.
"Moving abroad is the last resort for us," said Joseph Aitaro of Palau. The nations want developed nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases to slow sea level rise.
Some delegates say communities are already moving within nations because of climate change stoked by greenhouse gases -- often-cited examples are the Carteret islands of Papua New Guinea, Tegua island in Vanuatu or Moala in Fiji.
FIJI
"I'd estimate that since the year 2000 there have been 1,000 or 1,500 people moving, maybe 6-7 villages" around the Pacific, said Fe'iloakitau Kaho Tevi, general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches in Fiji.
"It is climate change, at high tide the water goes through the centre of the village," he said of Moala. "We find ourselves losing our burial sites, our beaches, our endemic species. And we are losing some of our islands."
Experts say there is no overall tracking of people moving -- or the causes. Some leave outlying islands, drawn by jobs in bigger centres. Subsidence may also sink some atolls.
"There's always the question of 'did climate change play a role in people moving?" said Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat.
In the Federated States of Micronesia, on the main island of Pohnpei, he said there was a "neighbourhood of people who moved from another island, Chuuk, because of a storm." It was unclear whether the storm was related to global warming.
The U.N. climate panel has projected that the intensity of cyclones is likely to increase because of climate change, even though total numbers of storms may fall.
Sea levels rose worldwide by about 17 centimetres (7 inches) in the 20th century and are projected to rise by another 18-59 cms by 2100, according to the panel. The estimate excludes possible acceleration of a thaw of Antarctica or Greenland.
Islanders worry increasingly about the future.
A video from Kiribati shown on the sidelines of the Bonn talks included a song with the refrain: "Who will take our people? Who will be the good Samaritan for us?".
-- For Reuters latest environment blogs click on: blogs.reuters.com/environment/ (Editing by Ralph Boulton)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Earth's coastlines after sea-level rise, 4000 AD

From: New Scientist

18:00 21 June 2009 by Catherine Brahic

Even if we could freeze-frame the atmosphere as it is today, sea levels would still rise by 25 metres, says the latest study into the effects of climate change on melting ice sheets.

Eelco Rohling of the UK National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton and colleagues reconstructed sea level fluctuations over the last 520,000 years and compared this to global climate and carbon dioxide levels data for the same period. They found a tight coupling between carbon dioxide and sea level rise.

Based on this relationship, the team calculated that if the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were fixed at current levels, temperature rises over the next couple of millennia would eventually drive sea levels up by 25 metres.

The team emphasise that the rise would not happen overnight or even over the next century. Two studies published last year suggested that there is a limit to how fast the water can rise. According to one, sea-levels could rise by approximately 1.3 metres by 2100. The other set the upper limit at 2 metres.

For an idea of what the European, Eastern US and Caribbean coastlines would look like with 2 metres (red) and 25 metres (yellow) sea level rise, have a look at the maps to the right.

image

Caribbean islands will be severely affected by sea level rise of a couple of metres (red). Yellow shading shows areas that lie within 25 metres of present sea levels (Image: Google – Map data © 2009 PPWK, Tele Atlas. Overlay: heywhatsthat.com)

Journal reference: Nature Geoscience (DOI: 10.1038/NGEO557)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Insurance companies should take the lead in promoting adaptation to Sea Level Rise

From: Insurance Journal

June 19 2009

The UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCP) unveiled a crucial new report projecting that sea level rise will continue, and that severe rainfall is likely to increase in winter. In the South of the UK - taking a medium-impact scenario - the wettest winter day could be as much as 20 percent wetter by 2050.

Risk Management Solutions, which has been involved in the preparation of the report, published a number of comments on its importance.

Domenico del Re, director of model management at RMS, noted: "The time period for these predicted changes extends far beyond the typical 5-year horizon which informs insurers' underwriting and portfolio management decisions. Even so, taking these findings to the next level to reliably assess the likely longer-term impact on flooding requires a level of detail that is not presently available. Ultimately the insurance industry wants to know how future climate will impact the occurrence of damaging events such as floods and severe storms, and unfortunately this can't yet be accurately predicted,"

He added that the report "provides the industry with an important canvas to build strategies to prepare for different scenarios of future climate risk. Risk management and financial protection measures can be put in place that echo the uncertainty around the predictions."

He also pointed out that the "insurance industry has an opportunity to take the lead in promoting property adaptation to future climate. Offering premium incentives and lobbying development planning policy are just two potential avenues, and ones which RMS has already started to explore."

According to a recent RMS/Lloyd's report, with an effective adaptation strategy, future losses for high-risk properties from coastal flooding- which will increase with sea level rise- could be reduced to below present-day levels with losses for high-risk properties reduced by as much as 70 percent.

The report may be accessed at: http://ukclimateprojections.defra.gov.uk/content/view/1794/510/index.html

Source: Risk Management Solutions - www.rms.com