Friday, November 25, 2011

Marin's critical marshes could face extinction as sea level rises

From: Marin Independent Journal by Mark Prado

Marshes that afford flood protection and support an array of wildlife along Marin's bay coast could drown as the sea level rises over the next 50 to 100 years, according to a study released Wednesday.

As the muddy, vegetation-laden life-supporting marshes diminish and are replaced by free-flowing sea water, species such as the California clapper rail, the salt marsh harvest mouse and rare plants could struggle for survival, according to the study, led by PRBO Conservation Science, a Petaluma-based organization with offices in Marin.

Flooding in coastal areas could also increase because the sponge-like marshes would be overrun. The fishing industry could also suffer: 70 percent of commercial fish depend on marshes for all or part of their lives.

"Tidal marshes are incredibly resilient to changes in sea level, depending on how fast seas rise and how much sediment is available," said Diana Stralberg, the study's lead author. "Unfortunately, marshes cannot keep up with the high-end sea-level rise predictions on their own. They will need our help."

PRBO joined with other researchers and found that 93 percent of San Francisco Bay's tidal marsh could be lost in the next century with 5.4 feet of sea-level rise, combined with low sediment levels.

The first-of-its-kind study assesses impacts of sea-level rise, suspended sediment availability, salinity and other factors on the bay's tidal marshes. The study was published this week in the scientific journal PLoS ONE.

"This will allow planners to make decisions that can help the marshes," said co-author and PRBO biologist Julian Wood. "We can also help by kick-starting the restoration process by using dredge material to build up marshes."

That process could help areas like Richardson Bay, which could have its marshes hit hard by sea level rise, he said. Such an effort is occurring at the former Hamilton Air Force base where dredged material from the Port of Oakland and other locales has been used to bring a marsh area back to life.

When sea levels rose during pre-modern times, tidal marshes gradually migrated onto land and into upland areas. Today levees, development, roads, parking lots and other barriers prevent that movement, threatening the future of tidal marsh habitat and dependent wildlife, according to the report.

"Our results indicate that we must start thinking now about where tidal marshes could move up to — the future potential wetlands," Stralberg said. "If we can't slow down sea-level rise, we will need to identify and protect areas where marshes can migrate to."

That may mean protecting areas from development or moving roads or buildings, researchers said.

Of the 190,000 acres of tidal marshes that existed in the bay before the Gold Rush, only 16,000 acres remain. Another 24,000 acres have been restored or are in the process of being restored — giving the bay only about one-fifth of the tidal marsh area it once had.

As people settled nearby the area was diked and drained and claimed for agriculture and housing. About 82 percent of San Pablo Bay's marshes and wetlands along Marin's shores were diked by the time of the Great Depression. These degraded baylands, many of which have been used for agriculture or salt production, should be restored by re-connecting them to the tidal flow, the report says.

Scientists believe rates of sea-level rise will accelerate in the second half of this century, giving a window of opportunity to adjust.

"The real hope for San Francisco Bay's tidal marshes, for the birds and fish that depend upon them, and for the many benefits tidal marshes provide to our communities, is working together now to restore existing priority marshes and create new ones where feasible," said Ellie Cohen, PRBO's president and CEO.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Refugees of Climate Change Rising Steadily

From: IPSNews  by Rousbeh Legatis*

NEW YORK, Nov 16, 2011 (IPS) - Asian countries, home to about 60 percent of the world's population, will be hit hardest by changing weather patterns and a degrading environment, research indicates.
A whopping 90 percent of all disaster displacement within countries in 2010 was caused by climate- related disasters, the international body Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reported. That year, 38.3 million women, men and children were forced to move, mainly by floods and storms.
Out of 16 countries with the highest risk of being severely affected by environmental changes in the next 30 years, ten are in Asia, according to the 2010 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, released by global risks advisory firm Maplecroft.
In Southeast Asia alone, extreme weather events like rising sea levels and storm surges "could cause economic losses of 230 billion dollars, or equivalent of 6.7 percent of GDP, each year, endangering the livelihoods of millions of people", as Bart Édes, director of the Poverty Reduction, Gender and Social Development Division of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), told IPS.
Climate change adaptation costs for Asia and the Pacific are estimated in the order of 40 billion dollars annually, the expert said.
Sea level rise particularly affects the poorest of the poor living in coastal areas 10 metres above sea level and in small island states.
Already facing the consequences of a changing environment, some Pacific Islands, including Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, are also considered among the least developed countries, meaning they possess limited resources to implement measures to effectively support those in need.
"About 100 million people would be affected by sea level rise of one metre. There are more than 30 small island developing states that would be impacted by sea level rise as well as the populations of large delta systems in Egypt, Bangladesh, Niger and Vietnam," said Mary-Elena Carr, associate director of the Columbia Climate Centre in New York.
In the early 21st century, frequent flooding in most small island states is likely to be a reality, added Carr.
Off the radar
A clear understanding of the situation of people's livelihoods in the Pacific region remains elusive so far due to a lack of data. Although the Islands are spread over a vast geographical area, their population and combined area make them an otherwise comparatively small region that tends to be overlooked in international discussions on climate change.
The infrastructure and housing of the poor cannot withstand cyclones, floods, landslides or king tides, all of which have been exacerbated by accelerated sea level rise.
In the region, climate change-related migration follows inward paths, meaning people flee from outer to main islands, as they typically lack the means to move abroad.
Protection issues can arise from this situation. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are not protected by any internationally binding legal framework. They frequently face discrimination as well as increased vulnerability to exploitation and violence.
IDPs are often deprived of rights to social services, livelihoods, housing and property.
"Specific strategies need to be developed to ensure that disaster-displaced find durable solutions, including in situations where return is not an option," explained Kate Halff, head of IDMC, in an interview with IPS.
Such methods include displacement monitoring systems to track population movements and ensure timely and adequate responses as well as joint approaches by disaster risk reduction, development and humanitarian actors.
The struggle to take action
To highlight the key characteristics and challenges of displacement, "Protecting the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons in Natural Disasters – Challenges in the Pacific", a study recently published by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), compared cases and responses in Samoa, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
Indicating major flaws in governmental responses to the needs of IDPs, the study determined that planning and prevention measures to assist the displaced were inadequate.
Political decision-makers have not taken into account complaints from the displaced or even acknowledged them as "internally displaced". They refer to them instead as "affected" or "homeless", the UN report showed.
"A lot of change is happening within a country because of climate change. Lots of decisions need to be made about where, how and who to resettle,"  Matilda Bogner, regional OHCHR representative for the Pacific, told IPS.
Additionally, hierarchical traditional systems in some countries exclude certain groups from decision- making. "Women are fairly systematically excluded from decision-making within most countries of the Pacific," Bogner said.
Resettlement efforts are further complicated by land issues on the Islands, where the majority of territory is commonly owned by different communities and individuals and not available for public use.
Since regional governments depend heavily on international development assistance, "donor governments in the region also have a particular responsibility to promote and protect human rights within the Pacific," the OHCHR study emphasised.
Understanding environmental migration in Asia and the Pacific is of paramount importance in adopting policies and programmes capable of coping with future migration flows in the region, stated an ADB paper in September.
As the number of people displaced from their homes by both sudden and slow-onset climatic events will increases, multiple aspects of migration policies - including financial - will have to fall into place to create solutions beneficial to both guest and host communities.

*This is the second in a three-part series on the impacts of climate change in the Pacific region.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Rising sea levels threaten Bahrain

From: Gulf Daily News by MANDEEP SINGH








UP TO 22 per cent of Bahrain's land could be under water by the end of the century as a result of rising global sea levels, it was declared yesterday.

This is based on an Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme report, said Bahrain's UN resident co-ordinator Peter Grohmann.

It concluded a likely global sea level rise of close to a metre or more by the end of the century, compared to a forecast of 0.18 to 0.59 metres by the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, he added.

"We are awaiting the final report of the second national communication on climate change for Bahrain," said Mr Grohmann.

"However, early results of the sea level rise modelling studies off the coasts of Bahrain suggest that between seven and 22pc of the country's entire land could be inundated (with water)."

He said as a consequence, development infrastructure, including those critical for the country's economy such as oil and gas installations; power generation plants and transportation lines, could be under threat.

Mr Grohmann said another threat was the rise in temperature.

"The Gulf region is already considered the hottest part of the world. However, with the effects of climate change the maximum temperature could be pushed further upward," he said.

Mr Grohmann said this year the heat wave that swamped the Gulf region had Kuwait registering one of the highest maximum temperatures on record.

"Increase in temperature, variable and unpredictable weather patterns will trigger higher demands for water and electricity, which are both costly and in short supply, especially during peak periods," he said.

All these factors point to the need for a revised energy policy, balancing the fact that energy is a key engine of development with the negative impacts of unsustainable energy production, said Mr Grohmann.

"This outlook calls for increased efforts in adaptation and mitigation measures," he said.

Mr Grohmann was speaking at the opening of a day-long workshop on the impact of climate change on the energy sector in Bahrain at the Gulf Hotel. It was held under the patronage of Energy Minister Dr Abdulhussain Mirza and was organised by the National Oil and Gas Authority in collaboration with Electricity and Water Authority (EWA), Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife, United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.

"This is alarming to a small island state like Bahrain," said Mr Grohmann. "It is a 'real' threat to people, natural resources and to the advancements in human development in general and has implications on all the Millennium Development Goals - from food production, health and water to environment sustainability."

He said the threat, however, also offered an opportunity to re-think development pathways and further advance national sustainable development agendas.

"The UN recognised climate change as the defining human development challenge of the 21st century and made it the focus of the Human Development Report 2007/2008."

Mr Grohmann said the report stipulated that failure to respond to the challenge would stall and even reverse international efforts to reduce poverty in the 21st century.

"No country, however wealthy or powerful, is and will be immune to the impact and associated risks of global warming with droughts, floods and storms already destroying development opportunities and reinforcing inequalities," he said.

There is now scientific evidence that the world is moving towards avoiding the point of irreversible ecological crisis, said Mr Grohmann.

He said the workshop was both important and strategic for Bahrain.

"It comes at a time when representatives of 195 countries are gearing up for the next round of climate change negotiations in Durban later this month," said Mr Grohmann.

He said Bahrain showed leadership on a global scale on disaster risk reduction efforts.

Mr Grohmann said the UN system in Bahrain would continue to support the government and the people in efforts towards putting the society on a more sustainable, low-carbon and climate-resilient development path.

Energy Minister Dr Abdulhussain Mirza said climate change had become a reality and was resulting in natural disasters - melting of ice and rising sea levels in many regions of the world.

"The impact is being felt on fish stocks and biodiversity, and storms and hurricanes are threatening our decades-old development and achievements," he said.

Dr Mirza said the hydrocarbon energy industry faced significant challenges due to climate change and its relation to policies and systems.

He said market indicators call for the removal of carbon from energy systems as well as increasing growth of new and renewable energies.

"In the longer term, this type of effect depends on technical progress and opportunities for improving efficiency and the use of new economically viable technologies, such as carbon capture and storage." Officials from the EWA and the Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife also spoke at the event.

Monday, November 21, 2011

China sea levels rise up to 130 mm in 20 years: report

rom: Xinhuanet

BEIJING, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- A national scientific report estimated that China sea levels will rise up to 130 millimeters in the coming two decades, due to global warming.

The Second National Assessment Report on Climate Change, a joint work of the Ministry of Science and Technology, the China Meteorological Administration and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, noted that rising temperature would lead to continuous rise of sea levels by 80 mm to 130 mm in 2030 compared with 2009.

The report, which was released Tuesday, also said the average temperature of the land surface in China had increased 1.38 degrees centigrade from 1951 to 2009.

China's glaciers have shrunk by 10 percent over the past 60 years as a result of rising temperatures, the report said.

The report said sea levels around the municipalities of Tianjin and Shanghai as well as Guangdong Province are expected to climb 76 to 145 mm, 98 to 148 mm and 83 to 149 mm, respectively, in 2030.

The absolute sea level of South China's Pearl River, the second largest river in China in terms of runoff volume, will see a rise of 90 to 210 mm in 2050.

The rise in sea levels around China is predicted to submerge 18,000 square kilometers of coastal lowlands.

The first report of this kind was released four years ago.