Photo: Sinking beneath the seas: Canadian coast under threat in new predictions

Sea level rise due to climate change could inundate literally billions of dollars of investment in homes, roads, airports, and other infrastructure (Credit: Kurrs via Flickr).

By Dale Marshall, Campaigner, David Suzuki Foundation

Today in Nuuk, Greenland, ministers from Canada and other Arctic nations are being told to prepare for something that will have tremendous repercussions for Canada's coastal communities — sea level rise that could inundate literally billions of dollars of investment in homes, roads, airports, and other infrastructure.

New research from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (PDF) shows that glaciers, sea ice, and ice sheets like the one that covers Greenland are now melting more quickly than before due to global climate change. As a consequence, oceans will rise by 0.9 to 1.6 metres in this century.

This is higher than previously thought and will have serious implications for Canada. The changes will "cause fundamental changes to the characteristics of Arctic ecosystems and in some cases loss of entire habitats." Of course, that will also affect Arctic communities that depend on those ecosystems.

The impacts will be felt on our other coasts as well. In my hometown of Sept-Iles, Quebec, along the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, task forces have been established to try to come up with solutions to a rise in sea level that is already eroding the beaches and inundating the seashore. Other communities on the east coast are being similarly affected.

It may be worse in BC. A one metre rise in sea level, at the low end of the prediction, would submerge farmland the size of 10,000 football fields (PDF). Homes and industries three times that area will be underwater. In Richmond and Delta alone, over 200,000 people live below or near sea level, as does the Vancouver International Airport.

So what will researchers tell ministers in Greenland? We need an urgent and coordinated response to this threat. Canada must develop strategies to adapt to these risks. We can minimize the impact by tackling climate change head on and reducing our greenhouse gas pollution.

We know the costs of acting urgently on climate change are small and manageable. This and other research shows the cost of inaction could be much, much higher.

May 12, 2011

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May 13, 2011
4:50 AM

How can Denmark(Greenland) and Canada stop global warming. It’s called global warming for a reason, Maldives will soon disappear and billions will suffer as a result of the rising water. What can Canada do? Vancouver is going under the waves it’s just the way it’s going to be, accept it and move on. The rapid melting of the south polar ice sheet will add to the problem. I really pity India, Indonesia and China when the water raises by a few meters. It will be a century to remember. It’s not like the scientists didn’t tell us, we just don’t listen a reactive society instead of being proactive and working at a way to stop this runaway train together. Sad to watch, who speaks for Earth? Well we as humans don’t very well. I look at the bright side, population control and natural selection at work, I hope we make it.

May 12, 2011
5:27 PM

I have been told that in the west coast of the USA, they are making plans for next year, I meet a person that works for the national defense. She reported that they are upgrading all of the defense systems for the flood that is coming in 2012. Now I have not been hearing any one else talk about 2012 as flooding the coast. Have you? She reports that not only the ocean will raise but rain for a month or more will cause the flooding. Most of the time we never hear of things until it is too late, so this would not surprise me that we are not being told what is really going on.

May 12, 2011
2:58 PM

More likely, both Canada & the US will ignore the warnings & keep plugging away. Worse, given that scientists were surprised by an antarctic ice shelf breaking up in just ONE summer, instead of the predicted 10 to 30 summers forecast, I suspect that they underestimate the rapidity of how fast this will happen. Not in a century. But in a decade or 3. Perhaps even faster.

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