Rising sea levels are a global issue, but research shows the danger is greater closer to home.
Karen Kohfeld, SFU assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in Climate Resources and Global Change explained, “We can expect a global sea rise of 70 to 100 centimeters if we do nothing to change our carbon emission. If we do something about it, we can reduce it to about 40 to 60 centimeters.”
Vancouver is one of the more threatened cities, and mayor Gregor Robertson is calling for more aid from the federal and provincial governments to help save the coastal city from the impacts of rising sea levels.
According to Global News, a local study estimates $25 billion worth of real estate will be at risk from sea level rise in Vancouver by the end of the century.
“The low-lying areas will be most affected,” Kohfeld said. “If we look at just our global topography in places like Vietnam, any place that has a major industrial port by the sea, will be affected by this. The southern coast of North America and the east coast of North America will be affected.”
Preventative work is already underway in some places around the world. Kohfeld continued explaining that, for example, New York and Tokyo are likely to spend billions to erect dikes and other defenses.
However, not all cities can afford this. Kohfeld said, “[For] other places in the world, island nations around the globe, this a serious concern. Whenever we have international climate treaty meetings sponsored by the UN, the island nations are always there because part of the problem is it is not just looking out and seeing the sea level rise. It is that when the sea level goes up, and you have any kind of storm coming over top of that, that’s when you see the large problems.”
Recent findings have shown that a key glacier in west Antarctica is melting, which researchers suggest will contribute to an additional sea level rise that may reach a couple of feet in this century.
According to Kohfeld, the outlook seems bleak: “One of the studies suggest it is beyond the point of return for this particular glacier. The concern there is that where that glacier is located, it is kind of a lynch pin for all of western Antarctica, that ice sheet. The question is, ‘How stable is the ice sheet behind that glacier?’”
In particular, for BC, the extensive dike system would have to be modified. “If we are to account for a one metre sea level rise, one option would be to raise those dikes. That is very costly,” Kohfeld warned.
Kohfeld reflected on mistakes of the past and asked, “What should we have done already?”