Friday, February 12, 2010

Rising sea level poses threat to Seychelles

From: The National

Matt Brown, Foreign Correspondent


Tourists relax on a beach in Beau Vallon, Seychelles. The rising sea level due to global warming is taking a bite out of the Indian Ocean nation´s beaches, the number one tourist attraction.Photo: Matt Brown, The National BEAU VALLON, Seychelles.

The beach here used to be full of bronzed tourists sunning themselves on the cream-coloured sand. But in the past decade, the rising sea level has taken a bite out of this spectacular strip of shore.
Now, the tourists cram on to a narrow sliver of beach between the turquoise water and the wall that protects the resort hotels from the rising sea. Locals recall a time when there was much more beach to go around.

“The water used to be farther out,” said Michael Espron, 32, a scuba-diving instructor at a local hotel. “Soon, the water will be right up into the hotel. It will definitely affect tourism. They come here to get a suntan on the beach, but if the sea continues to rise, they won’t be able to get to the beach.”
Like other island states, the Seychelles, a country of 155 picturesque islands in the Indian Ocean, is on the front lines of climate change. Rising temperatures and the melting of polar ice caps are blamed for raising ocean levels and threatening to destroy the nation’s pristine coastline – the country’s No 1 tourist attraction. Some of the archipelago’s low-lying islands could be fully submerged if the rise continues.

Tourists are not the only ones threatened by global warming. A gradual increase in sea temperature is killing coral reefs and endangering a rare species of sea turtle that nests on the Seychelles’ beaches.
The government, one of the most environmentally conscious in the world, is leading the call to curb carbon emissions that scientists say contribute to global warming. But the states like the Seychelles most affected by climate change are up against the world’s superpowers, whose polluting industries drive the global economy.

James Michel, the president, appealed to industrial nations to rein in polluting greenhouse gases at the UN climate meeting in Copenhagen in December. A coalition of small island states put forth a proposal to cap carbon emissions and limit global warming to 2°C.
“I am not here to celebrate the limited progress, but to speak out once again, as we have always done, of our fight for survival, our human right to exist,” the president said in a speech at the conference.

To the Seychellois, the Copenhagen summit did not go swimmingly. The world failed to set legally binding targets for reducing polluting gases and some say real action was put off until the next climate conference, in Mexico, this year.
“It was a big disappointment that governments did not show leadership,” said Rolph Payet, who is the environmental adviser to Mr Michel and attended the Copenhagen talks. “Next time is just going to be another talk shop unless real action happens now.”

Mr Payet’s office is next door to the president’s, an indication of the Seychellois’ acute concern about the environment. The global warming message is also a mainstay of local media.
“Not long ago, Seychelles was one of the small island states who went on screaming at the Copenhagen conference, pleading for the rich men’s club to hear our call that our survival depends greatly on their commitment to save our plant,” Christopher Lespoir wrote in a column in The People, a local newspaper. “I feel it was sad and disappointing to see that the market, profit and the economy won over life.”

Other island countries are also concerned with the rising sea level. The Maldives, the Seychelles’ Indian Ocean neighbour, recently held a cabinet meeting underwater to raise awareness. The Pacific island nation of Tuvalu has talked about moving its citizens to New Zealand, making them the world’s first climate refugees.
Ninety per cent of the Seychelles’ population of 80,000 people lives on Mahe, a granitic island with rugged mist-shrouded peaks covered in tropical vegetation. Most of downtown Victoria, the country’s laid-back capital, as well as the port and airport, were built on reclaimed land and are a few metres above the sea. A predicted two-metre rise in sea level over the next century could easily swamp the country’s infrastructure.

Dozens of the Seychelles’ coral outer islands are uninhabited but are important habitats for birds and marine life. If the sea-level rise continues unchecked, those islands could soon be underwater.
Global warming is also contributing to a rise in sea temperatures, which is having a devastating effect on marine ecosystems. The endangered sea turtle is especially vulnerable, according to Jeanne Mortimer, a US biologist who has studied sea turtles in the Seychelles for much of the past 30 years.

Temperature determines the sex of sea turtles and warmer beaches are causing more females to be born and the imbalance puts the whole population at risk.
In the sleepy beach town of Beau Vallon, Mr Espron, the diving instructor, has had a hard time drumming up business as the reefs deteriorate.
“We get less and less divers,” he said. “Back when it was beautiful, the diving was good everywhere. The divers loved it. Now, for good diving, you really have to choose your spot.”

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sea rise monitoring satellite approved

Jean Antonique

From: TGDaily

Europe has approved the development of a new spacecraft to continue monitoring the rise in the world's oceans.

The transatlantic Jason-3 Programme has now been approved by Eumetsat member states, building on the work done by the Jason-2 satellite in meteorology, operational oceanography and in particular the monitoring of sea level trends - which have shown an average global annual sea level rise through the last 15 years of 3.3 millimeters.

Nineteen member states have said they are prepared to contribute €63.6 million to the €252 million programme cost of Jason-3.

Eumetsat director-general Dr Lars Prahm, welcomed the decision. "The fact that nearly 80 per cent of EUMETSAT members, including all its largest Member States, are participating shows the importance they attach to continuing the mission begun so successfully by Jason-2 and that the solidarity among EUMETSAT Member States continues to prevail," he said.

The Jason-3 programme is led by Eumetsat and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA had already promised funding of €100 million.

In addition, the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency, has promised to act as system coordinator, and to make available the Jason-3 Proteus satellite platform, its facilities and associated human resources.

Meanwhile, NASA will support science team activities, including the satellite launch, provision of instruments and operations support.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Halifax sea levels to rise 73 cm by 2100: Experts

From: MetroNews

Monique Muise

Georges Island and the Halifax Harbour are pictured in this file photo from Fenwick Tower. An examination of potential sea-level rise over the next 100 years in the harbour was presented to HRM council yesterday.

The waters in Halifax Harbour are indeed rising, but don’t start building your ark just yet.
A team of experts charged with studying sea-level rise in the harbour gave a detailed presentation to regional council yesterday, explaining that the current generation won’t see a significant difference in water levels — but their children certainly will.
“We’re looking at 73-centimetre apparent sea-level rise at the dock between 2000 and 2100,” said Donald Forbes, a research scientist with the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. “This is probably an underestimate.”
If levels do rise as much as predicted, said Forbes, a severe storm like hurricane Juan striking the city at high tide in 2100 could flood much of the naval dockyards, historic properties and Lower Water Street, causing extensive damage.
Roger Wells, HRM’s supervisor of regional and community planning, said there’s no need for panic, but the municipality does need to be proactive.
“Let’s be aware that this is going to happen, and start to plan for it,” he told council. “The costs of doing something now are going to be much less than if we wait and adapt after the fact ... This isn’t rocket science.”
The research team has already presented its findings to several developers, naval commanders and other stakeholders, said Wells, and they are using the information to inform how — and where — they build on the waterfront.
Council was told that the municipality will also need to be “very careful” about the kinds of development it allows near the water’s edge, and may eventually need to approve the construction of dikes and sea walls.
Coun. Jennifer Watts suggested Halifax should also be taking cues from other coastal communities around the globe.
“This type of scenario can be very bleak, and very scary,” she said. “We need to look at how other people around the world are dealing with this. And this is another call to put real effort into being as sustainable as we can.”

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Vanishing Island States and sovereignty


An interesting publication on the issue of sea level rise, disappearing island states and sovereignty.

Sea level rise could bring about an event that has not previously been seen in modern history, that of the physical disappearance of some low-lying Island States. The objective of this paper is to examine what are the likely scenarios for some of these islands in the course of the next century, and analyse for each scenario if these Island States could continue to claim an Exclusive Economic Zone or not. Also, it will analyse the possibility that Island States could continue having some sort of status analogous to statehood even if it was to lose all territory. Finally, the idea of a “government-in-exile” will be discussed, where the State could retain its identity waiting for a future re-emergence of the island.

New report highlights threat of climate change on Bermuda

From: The Royal Gazette 

A report on 'The Impact of Climate Change of Bermuda' forecasts stronger hurricanes and extensive flooding.

Up to 14 percent of the Island's land area could soon be at risk of flooding during high tides, while sea level rise and increased storm intensity will also threaten coastal areas.

Premier Ewart Brown highlighted the findings of the report, by Dr. Anne Glasspool, to MPs in the House of Assembly yesterday.

Dr. Brown said although the Island's size makes its greenhouse gas emissions "negligible" in global terms, the expected impact of climate change will necessitate extensive planning.

He said that in the past 20 years, the world's population has increased by a third. Annual emissions of greenhouse gases have also risen by a third.

"Bermuda's challenge will be for our leaders and our residents to understand and accept the science that supports climate change, be aware of the threats of climate change to Bermuda, and for us to come together and effectively plan for our future sustainability, by identifying, agreeing and adopting the correct mitigation measures to offset the forecasted threats of this global phenomenon," said Dr. Brown.

A public education initiative is now underway to raise awareness of the issue.

The Premier told MPs: "Through the combined efforts of the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of the Environment, along with the architects of this work on the Bermuda perspective the Bermuda National Trust, and under the leadership and coordination of the Sustainable Development Unit, a series of public relations, education and information initiatives are being planned.

"Through this partnership, a coordinated effort will be made to educate and sensitise all residents to the importance of this subject."

Dr. Brown added: "Bermuda can set an example for other small islands with a coordinated and effective approach to addressing this issue.

"Such a coordinated approach has already been demonstrated in the compilation of the Sustainable Development Plan, and I am confident that we can facilitate a nationwide understanding of the issue and a comprehensive and realistic strategy that leads to a sustainable future for Bermuda."

'The Impact of Climate Change on Bermuda' was written by Dr. Glasspool for the Bermuda National Trust. It was also sponsored by Aspen Insurance Holdings Ltd.