Friday, September 30, 2011

Durban’s dire climate catastrophe

From: IOL News

September 27 2011 at 09:04am
By Tony Carnie


IOL pic kzn sea levels nu2

INLSA -A blue line depicting just how high the sea could rise if nothing is done to halt climate change. Graphic: supplied

A “Blue LINE” will be painted along several sections of the Durban beachfront within the next few weeks to show just how high the sea could rise if nothing is done to halt climate change.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize said the idea behind the project was to raise awareness about some of the “devastating impacts” of climate change in the build-up to the UN climate change summit (COP17) to be held in Durban from November 28 to December 9.

Opening the provincial summit on climate change in Durban yesterday, he said his office was planning a march through the city during the summit.

It was hoped ministers, business leaders and other groups would participate in the march, which would follow part of the “blue line” representing a possible future sea level rise in Durban.

Details have not been announced yet, but it is understood that the line could be based on a 1m rise in sea level.

Based on recent research and computer modelling by the eThekwini municipality, a 1m rise is likely to undermine or destroy large areas of Durban’s Golden Mile, including several hotels and other tourist infrastructure.

The city has modelled a number of scenarios based on projections of 300mm, 600mm and 1m sea-level rises.

Four years ago, the UN’s expert scientific body on climate change projected that the sea level around the world could rise from anywhere between 180mm and 580mm by the end of this century as result of rising ocean temperatures and the melting of glaciers, snow and ice in polar regions.

However, recent work by German climate change researcher Stefan Rahmstorf and other scientists has suggested a sea-level rise of 1m was possible before 2100.

Some cities in the US and other parts of the world are also considering demarcating blue lines to raise awareness.

Mkhize also announced that the Provincial Planning Commission had been asked to make new recommendations concerning environmental impact assessments (EIAs) in the province.

Impact

“It has been instructed to redesignate the province into three areas to guide the issuing of EIA certificates.

“These include areas where development is highly needed and environmental disturbance is minimal; in areas where development is needed and degree of environmental impact evaluation is necessary; and lastly areas where environmental sensitivity will be enforced strongly to protect the environment and discourage any possibility of the destruction of the environment.

“We believe this approach will create the necessary balance between developmental imperatives and environmental conservation.”

Mkhize also outlined brief details of a project involving the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a prominent research institution in the US to develop a new Solar Energy Institute in the province.

“The Provincial Planning Commission is analysing the wind channels in the pro-vince as well as sunlight intensity and has started a number of pilot programmes to encourage independent power producers using wind and solar energy production.

“We are inviting investors in alternative power production to come and partner with our province in this focus and we trust they will come forward to showcase techno- logies as part of the production of the green economy,” Mkhize said. - The Mercury

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

$1.5 Million Grant to Predict Sea-Level Rise & Flooding from Hurricanes

 

From: University of Pennsylvania

September 27, 2011, Volume 58, No. 03

Horton

In an effort to better understand sea-level rise and flooding from hurricanes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded a three-year, $1.5 million grant to a research team led by Benjamin Horton. The study aims to provide predictive models and reports that can be used both by environmental scientists and coastal communities.

Dr. Horton, an associate professor in the School of Arts and Sciences’ department of earth and environmental science, is the director of Penn’s Sea Level Research Laboratory.

“Future flooding of the US Atlantic and Gulf coasts will depend upon both sea-level rise and the intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones, each of which will be affected by climate change,” Dr. Horton said. “We will employ new interdisciplinary approaches to bring about a marked improvement in the reliability of predictions of such flooding.”

The NOAA-backed project draws upon research Dr. Horton published earlier this year with lab members and collaborators from Pennsylvania State University, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Finland’s Aalto University School of Engineering and Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The researchers produced a landmark study that resulted in the first reconstruction of sea-level rise during the past 2,000 years.

Microscopic fossils known as foraminifera, taken from a North Carolina salt marsh, aided the reconstruction. The new study will expand to Massachusetts, New Jersey, Georgia and both coasts of Florida to examine regional variability of sea-level rise.

“The foundation of current models for sea-level projections is data from the 20th century, but we’ve started to be able to push further back in time,” Dr. Horton said. “This allows us to have a better understanding of the past relationship between climate and sea level and to make better predictions about the future.”

In the case of flooding arising from hurricanes, the researchers will combine regional sea-level-rise projections with hurricane simulations and storm-surge models. This will enable them to map coastal flooding for the current climate and the best- and worst-case climate scenarios of the 21st century.

This spring, the researchers will begin to meet with coastal managers of the six sites to get their input about how such projections might be best put to use. Especially in the wake of Hurricane Irene, Dr. Horton believes they will be most interested in flooding scenarios.

“We’re taking our scientific products into local communities,” Dr. Horton said. “We will be providing information and products that will help them plan and prepare.” 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Planners help towns prep for impact of coastal storms

 

From: Seacoastonline

By Nancy Rineman, hamptonunion@seacoastonline.com

September 23, 2011 2:00 AM

SEABROOK — Seabrook will be joining the neighboring towns of Hampton and Hampton Falls in exploring the potential economic impacts of coastal storms.

Julia LaBranche, senior planner with the Rockingham Planning Commission, met with the Board of Selectmen last week to present details of the New England Environmental Finance Center's Coastal Adaptation to Sea-Level-Rise Tool, which uses science-based information to evaluate the costs and benefits of management options to address coastal hazards.

The Rockingham Planning Commission has been an active partner in studying the increased intensity and frequency of storms affecting coastal communities with damage and costly repairs.

Portions of Seabrook existing in flood danger zones will be examined in an effort to minimize the effects of projected sea level rise scenarios as they pertain to property values and infrastructure costs.

LaBranche said that with the use of COAST, communities will be able to be more proactive in learning of potential flooding.

The Environmental Protection Agency and others have been grappling with a lack of information regarding potential coastal hazards because of errors in mapping due to lack of elevation data, she said.

Communities taking part in the project will become part of a local stakeholder group to find out how much money could be saved by being better prepared for storms, LaBranche said. "(We want) to make sure your interests and concerns are part of that model."

Selectman Aboul Khan asked LaBranche if any costs to Seabrook would be involved.

"There is no cost to (the) community," LaBranche said, adding that the project is being paid for by the EPA.

Communities will receive a narrative report and maps, LaBranche said. In addition, the Rockingham Planning Commission will be working on a grant to help towns with the evaluations.

LaBranche said the study will not affect specific flood maps, but will concentrate on creating a predictive plan for communities for establishing emergency shelters and other factors.

"(The Federal Emergency Management Agancy) has recognized that this is a helpful tool to minimize and reduce those risks," she said.

Selectmen said they would be sending representation, including a member of the Seabrook Beach Civic Association, to the kickoff meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, at Hampton Falls Library, 7 Drinkwater Road, Hampton Falls.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Island nations tell UN their future at stake as water levels rise

By Associated Press, Published: September 24

UNITED NATIONS — The Palestinians want the United Nations to recognize a state. And the island nation of Tuvalu wants the United Nations to act — now — to keep their state above water.

The high drama surrounding the historic Palestinian bid for statehood has to a degree overshadowed other issues facing the U.N. General Assembly, which Saturday heard from the leaders of island nations where the impact of climate change is already having a profound effect.

They argue that the U.N. is moving too slowly despite many initiatives designed to reduce carbon emissions worldwide. U.N. officials have recognized climate change as the greatest environmental threat to the planet but efforts to slow its inexorable progress have foundered.

The message Saturday from island leaders was that there is little time left for concerted action that could prevent their small, vulnerable countries from facing severe problems, or worse, as sea levels rise and flooding and storm activity increases.

Tuvalu Prime Minister Willy Telavi said his country’s very existence is at risk as he urged U.N. members to move more quickly to limit the damage of climate change, and to come up with real, practical plans to help the most vulnerable countries.

“For a small island developing state like Tuvalu, climate change is no doubt a security issue which threatens our survival,” he said, adding that time was quickly running out for his tiny island nation, located roughly halfway between Australia and Hawaii.

The low-lying country, built on nine coral atolls, is one of the most endangered Pacific Islands, but others are also at risk as sea levels rise. It is not clear if Tuvalu, with its porous coral base, can be saved without a tremendous financial commitment from the international community, which may be reluctant to invest heavily in a country with only about 12,000 residents.

The country’s leaders have faced this reality — more than a decade ago, they asked Australia and New Zealand to be willing to take in the Tuvalu’s residents if evacuation ultimately becomes necessary.

The problem goes well beyond the vast Pacific region. Leaders from the Indian Ocean and Carribean also warned Saturday of severe problems facing their regions.

Navinchandra Ramgoolam, prime minister of the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius — larger and more developed than Tuvalu — warned Saturday that the threat has to be addressed more quickly if horrendous consequences are to be avoided. He said the existence of some small island nations is at stake.

“Climate change is real,” he said. “Air temperatures have risen. The sea level is rising at the rate of 1.2 millimeters per year in the southwest Indian Ocean. Our annual rainfall has decreased by 8 percent in comparison to the 1960s. Extreme weather conditions like flooding are becoming more frequent. Without international cooperation and concerted effort the impact of climate change will be devastating for all our nations.”

Freundel Stuart, prime minister of Barbados in the Caribbean, told the General Assembly that small island nations in the Caribbean and Pacific may be destroyed if current trends are not halted.

“The planet has now begun to protest,” he said.

The warnings Saturday went beyond island leaders. Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh, said her country is making contingency plans because a one meter rise in sea levels because of global warming would inundate one-fifth of the country and displace more than 30 million people.

“This would be the largest humanitarian crisis in history,” she said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.