Friday, November 20, 2009

Plight of Pacific Islanders in photos

Visit The Age online to see an array of photos on the Pacific islands of Tarawa, Abaiang, Abarano, Eita, Taborio and Temwaiku. The 74 photos album focuses on the culture of the islanders, the environment, and most particularly the hard challenges they now face from an undeniable change in sea levels.

View this album at:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rising sea levels to impact the waste sector

From: InsideWasteWeekly

Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Garth Lamb

Sea level rise is one of the most frightening aspects of global climate change, and last week’s Federal Government report on the topic has highlighted there could potentially be a major impact on coastal waste facilities. Hundreds of low-lying landfills may need to be relocated to prepare for the effects of global warming, an exercise that could possibly cost many millions of dollars.

The Climate Change Risks to Australia’s Coast: A First Pass National Assessment report prepared by the Department of Climate Change modeled the impact of sea levels rising 900-1,100mm by 2100.
It suggests “at least 41 waste disposal facilities are located within 200m of the coastline” and potentially at risk from the rising oceans. The director consultancy Mike Ritchie and Associates, which was acknowledged for its contribution to the report, points out this figure is only a subset of the 400-600 licensed, operational landfills in Australia.
The DCC report notes there are “possibly several thousand small tips” located in coastal areas. In a preliminary exercise looking at aerial photographs along the Queensland coast, Mike Ritchie identified as many as 200 possible waste sites.
“Many town dumps were located in places that were undesirable or not suitable for community needs, were cheap to procure or required filling,” notes the report. “As a result many old dumps are sited in or adjoining flood prone and low-lying lands. Areas abutting mangroves and salt marshes were, for decades, preferred places for the local tip.”
“Most state and local governments now prevent the construction of new landfills within 100m of a watercourse. However, there is a large legacy of many ‘tips’ and ‘dumps’ long closed, but located in areas vulnerable to the future impacts of climate change and sea-level rise.”
It is not only abandoned regional facilities that are of concern. There are a number of large facilities, including landfills in Cairns and Brisbane, located in low-lying areas that may be vulnerable to sea level rise and the associated impact of storm surges and erosion.
“Existing clay capping and vegetative cover is unlikely to be able to withstand the erosive power of waves acting directly on the fill batters of a landfill face, especially driven by the power of a tropical cyclone,” notes the report.
“Permanent inundation of the base of the landfill could also create significant leachate problems.”
The Cairns landfill, for example, is in the finnal stages of its life and is located adjoining low-lying mangroves. The report says “a significant rupture of the landfill cap or walls could see hundreds or thousands of tonnes of materials released back into the environment”.
“It is difficult to specify the types of materials disposed into landfills or the quantity that may be released back into the environment by progressive climate change related erosion. It is known, however, that most landfills contain quantities of oil, demolition waste, asbestos, pesticides, plastic and heavy metals fixed into the soil/waste matrix.
“If this were released back to the environment it would constitute a significant environmental hazard.”
While it may be possible to prepare the most vulnerable large landfills for a changing climate, the report concedes it “is unclear how many small dumps may exist, for which on site protection may not be cost effective, but may still cause pollution”.
“The waste from these tips will need to be removed and relocated to inland landfills or recycled. The cost of relocation would range from thousands of dollars, to many millions depending upon the size of the landfill.”
The DCC report can be downloaded HERE. The section relevant to the waste industry is in Section 5.2-5.4 .

Call for oral presentations proposal launched

Call for oral presentations proposal: Wetlands support life and culture.
World Wetland Week 2010, Seychelles
31st Jan- 5th February 2010
Day of seminars 2nd February

This call for proposals is for a seminars day which will be held during the World Wetland Week 2010. This is the first global, weeklong wetlands activity programmed. It was proposed by Ramsar Secretariat. The seminars will be held on the 2nd of February 2010 at the International Conference Centre in Victoria, Seychelles.

The seminars will promote the knowledge on past and current research on wetlands in Seychelles and the South Western Indian Ocean Region. The RAMSAR definition of a wetlands is: “an area of marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.” This includes marine/coastal wetlands (shallow coral reefs, sea grass beds, rocky or sand shores, intertidal flats or marshes, forested wetlands, lagoons), Inland Wetlands (permanent or seasonal streams, waterfalls, marshes, pools, etc), and Human-made wetlands.

The seminars will focus on the following themes:
• Ramsar sites and wetlands of ecological importance
• Biodiversity in wetlands
• Connectivity of wetlands and other ecosystems
• Sustainable use of Wetlands (including education and awareness programmes on wetland areas)
• Wetlands and climate change

The aim of the seminar/workshop is to bring researchers from these related fields together, to provide an overview of the status of wetland areas in the region, to discuss the problems and opportunities and exchange information regarding the themes mentioned above.

The day will include invited talks and oral presentations.

Extended abstracts for oral presentations should consist of not more than 500 words. The presenters will be given 15 minutes to present and a further 5 minutes for answering questions. The abstracts can be based on published/peer reviewed articles, national reports/grey literature, ongoing research in the region or based purely on current knowledge on one of the themes listed above. Any interested applicants are welcome to fill out the application form attached. There is no limit on the number of proposals per applicant.

All proposals should be submitted to either;
Dr Pugazhendhi Murugaiyan at, or to Mr Ronley Fanchette at
All proposals should be submitted by the 10th of December 2009. They will be reviewed by the organising group in the Seychelles and confirmations will be sent by the end of December 2009.

All presenters are expected to be financially self-supporting. The workshop organisers will provide room, audio-visual equipment, snacks for breaks and lunch.

For more information, please contact:
Dr Pugazhendhi Murugaiyan at

Blogger note: similar Call for Proposal info and the application form can also be obtained from the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Transport website.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hawaii's famed white sandy beaches are shrinking

“Geologists say more than 70 percent of Kauai's beaches are eroding while Oahu has lost a quarter of its sandy shoreline. They warn the problem is only likely to get significantly worse in coming decades as global warming causes sea levels to rise more rapidly.”

By AUDREY McAVOY (from: Associated Press)

KAILUA, Hawaii — Jenn Boneza remembers when the white sandy beach near the boat ramp in her hometown was wide enough for people to build sand castles.

"It really used to be a beautiful beach," said the 35-year-old mother of two. "And now when you look at it, it's gone."

What's happening to portions of the beach in Kailua — a sunny coastal suburb of Honolulu where President Barack Obama spent his last two family vacations in the islands — is being repeated around the Hawaiian Islands.

Geologists say more than 70 percent of Kauai's beaches are eroding while Oahu has lost a quarter of its sandy shoreline. They warn the problem is only likely to get significantly worse in coming decades as global warming causes sea levels to rise more rapidly.

"It will probably have occurred to a scale that we will have only been able to save a few places and maintain beaches, and the rest are kind of a write-off," said Dolan Eversole, a coastal geologist with the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant program.

The loss of so many beaches is an alarming prospect for Hawaii on many levels. Many tourists come to Hawaii precisely because they want to lounge on and walk along its soft sandy shoreline. These visitors spend some $11.4 billion each year, making tourism the state's largest employer.

Disappearing sands would also wreak havoc on the environment as many animals and plants would lose important habitats. The Hawaiian monk seal, an endangered species, gives birth and nurses pups on beaches. The green sea turtle, a threatened species, lays eggs in the sand.

Chip Fletcher, a University of Hawaii geology professor, says scientists in Hawaii haven't yet observed an accelerated rate of sea level rise due to global warming.

Instead, the erosion the islands are experiencing now is caused by several factors including a steady historical climb in sea levels that likely dates back to the 19th century.

Other causes include storms and human actions like the construction of seawalls, jetties, and the dredging of stream mouths. Each of these human actions disrupts the natural flow of sand.

But a more rapid rise in sea levels, caused by global warming, is expected to contribute to erosion in Hawaii within decades. In 100 years, sea levels are likely to be at least 1 meter, or 3.3 feet, higher than they are now, pushing the ocean inland along coastal areas.

Fletcher says between 60 to 80 percent of the nation's shoreline is chronically eroding. But the problem is felt particularly acutely in Hawaii because the economy and lifestyle are so dependent on healthy beaches.

The state is doing everything it can to keep the sand in Waikiki, for example, joining with hotels in the state's tourist hub on a plan to spend between $2 million and $3 million pumping in sand from offshore.

Sam Lemmo, administrator of the state's Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, says the state would need a variety of adaptation strategies for different beaches.

It would likely have to abandon hope for beaches in posh Lanikai and suburban Ewa Beach on Oahu because they're already lined with seawalls and are badly eroded.

The same probably goes for shoreline next to highways or other critical public infrastructure, where seawalls already exist or may have to be built.

Seawalls protect individual properties from encroaching waters but they exacerbate erosion nearby by preventing waves from reaching the sand needed to replenish the beach.

For undeveloped shoreline, the state wants to make sure these areas stay pristine. This happened recently when a Florida-based developer announced plans to build luxury homes on sand dunes in Kahuku on Oahu's North Shore.

"We just kind of went nuts, pulled out all the guns on that one, basically got them to back off," Lemmo said. "We're working pretty hard to keep any new development away from these areas."

The University of Hawaii's Sea Grant program is working with a consultant to develop a beach management plan for Kailua that would address how to deal with a 1 meter rise in sea level. The state hopes this will be the first of many site-specific management plans for Hawaii's beaches.

A "triage," strategy could be applied to Kailua, which is lined by multimillion-dollar homes but doesn't have seawalls.

Fletcher proposes identifying areas where a land conservation fund would buy five or six adjoining properties. The state would tear down buildings on these plots and allow the beach to shift inland.

He said when erosion hits more sections of Kailua beach, there's going to be a clamor to put up seawalls.

"That will be a very important moment," Fletcher said. "If we allow the first home to put up a seawall, then we're probably dooming the entire beach over the course of a couple of decades . . .

Ultimately the beach will disappear. Or we could have an alternative to that, to identify now some portions of Kailua shoreline where we want the beach to live."

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

250,000 Australian homes at climate risk: report

(AFP) – 16 hours ago

SYDNEY — Rising sea levels caused by global warming could inundate up to 250,000 homes in Australia, according to a new study that warned airports, hospitals and power stations were at risk.

The government's "Climate Change Risks to Australia's Coasts" report found between 157,000 and 247,600 existing residential buildings were in danger of being flooded by 2100 if seas rose by 1.1 metres (43 inches).

Major ports and other crucial infrastructure were also vulnerable, said Climate Change Minister Penny Wong.

"Sea-level rise, more intense cyclones and ocean acidification will potentially increase the capital and operating costs of ports quite significantly by mid-century," said Wong, releasing the report on Saturday.

"A number of airports are also located in low-lying areas in the coastal zone, and are at risk of inundation in the coming century," she added.

Billed as the most comprehensive and scientifically-based look at the issue to date, the report found 120 ports, five power stations and substations and three water treatment plants were within 200 metres (yards) of the coast.

The 1.1 metre rise was a "plausible" estimate of likely sea-level elevation due to climate change, based on the most recently published scientific data, the report said.

Sydney Airport, Australia's largest and gateway to almost 32 million people a year, was particularly vulnerable because of its bayfront location, the report warned.

"The combined effects of sea-level rise, storm surge and tidal action resulting in significant inundation ... could effectively close the airport," the report said.

Wong said some of the changes flagged in the report were already happening and its findings could not be ignored.

"This report highlights the need for planned, coordinated action to help manage the risks," Wong said.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.