British Columbia Publishes Action Plan To Protect Sea Coast From Global Warming Effects

British Columbia assesses the effects of climate change and changes in sea level in the coming century.

Practical, hands-on reports by government officials advising local communities how to prepare for the effects of global warming are few and far between when compared with the number of doom and gloom global warming studies. But as the reality of global warming implications becomes engrained into our communal psyche, an avalanche of practical, local global warming ‘manuals’ is building up.

If there were such a thing as a blueprint for the perfect global warming manual, the recent action plan by the government of British Columbia, Canada would be a credible candidate. The report, entitled Projected Sea Level Changes for British Columbia in the 21st Century (pdf), prepares coastal communities on how to protect themselves against the effects of climate change by analyzing the anticipated effects at various localized levels.

The province’s Environment Minister, Barry Penner, says the prime factors that will affect >people living on the BC coast will be melting continental glaciers and ice caps, and the warming of the upper ocean. Additionally, the soil in BC is subject to local factors including subsidence and vertical land movements, Penner points out.

The Fraser River Delta and the Haida Gwaii are two areas that are going to be affected most dramatically by sea level rises, which the report’s authors project will have amassed up to 4.33 inches by the year 2100 at Nanaimo and more than 19.68 inches at the mouth of the Fraser River, which passes on to the Bay west of Vancouver before continuing onto the Northern Pacific. No dyke will be resistant to the levels of anticipated changes in sea level.

What’s more, the Fraser delta is known for its massive subsidence. Geologists have also revealed in recent decades that rebound of land after the last ice age (more than 10,000 years ago) is still taking place. That’s no mean feat. A tectonic plate known as the Juan de Fuca pushes Vancouver island two to three millimeters down every year.

The potential for serious coastal inundation becomes not a fictional scenario but a frightening possibility. A possibility made even more alarming by the 500 to 600-year frequency of major earthquakes, which cause land to drop as much as to two meters”, according to this report.

Another issue of extreme concern is coastal erosion, which weakens east Graham Island, Haida Gwaii. The government also reports that building developments in areas classified as ‘close to present high tide limits’ run the risk of being hit by extreme weather events at top sea levels.

If you think this is all futurist scare-mongering, think again. The implications of the most recent major ice melt data for the local coastal BC communities are already very clear. For instance, Arctic ice melt reached record levels in 2007 and can be held directly responsible for swamping of an arctic park in Northeast Canada during recent months. The park had until recently always been accessible has turned  dangerous for hikers due to the excessive water inflow.

Continental glaciers in the Arctic and Antartica are an immediate threat, the BC government believes. For instance the Antarctic Wilkins Ice Shelf in the ocean is subject to a high degree of melting. It’s only attached to a small strip of glacier of 1,640-foot wide, which  used to be 62 miles wide in the 1950s.

Penner, who oversees the implementation of a 10-year $100 million flood protection program, says that the study urgently stresses the need for greenhouse gas reductions.

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  1. It would be helpful if maps were produced showing coastal effects of ice melt= i.e.ground cover ice in greenland and antarctica. While a person could extrapolate the effects by manipulating existing topographical maps it would be of some use to people who are younger than I.(my kids will probably see it in their lifetime) I will likely be dead by the time it becomes a critical issue. It appears that the feeling in B.C. is that aside from the lower mainland and Victoria effects will be considerable. The rest of the province is not considered. Here on Vancouver Island there are a number of communities which lie within 2m of sea level.If land based ice melts at the expected rate there could be a rise in sea levels.Worst case scenarios suggest a rise of up to 40 ft. Visualization of the change in sea levels would help the average young person decide where to settle and raise the next generation in safety. weird thoughts but information is power

  2. Thank you Thomas for your speedy response. I only wish I could do more personally to help alieviate this problem which is more immediate than most folks realise. Fact is in my experience with people …most are either unaware or in denial. I suppose that this attitude is understandable considering the fact that the sea level has dropped(or the land level has risen) in the puget sound area evidenced by a drop in high tide lines due to earthquake activity. I remember a documentary a few years ago which showed quite plainly a 3 foot drop over the last few hundred years. Geologically speaking this is a mere moment of time. While this seems to indicate that our pacific plate is pushing itself over the continental plate. the gray area to me seems to involve the Jaun De Fuca plate. The interaction is still slightly muddled in my understanding but my sense is that there is more going on there than is easily comprehended.(unless you are well versed in plate tectonics. I have read that the area around Nanaimo for instance will see a 90 cm change(which isn’t much) However Naaimo is called “Rock City” by some and relatiely high embankments at th waterfront indicate that little effect will be found except perhaps for deeper boat basins. North of Nanaimo though many communities along the waterfront are built on flats. At one time(perhaps 30 years ago) these areas were sold for as little as 100 dollars an acre. Now these lands have housing developments on them, many are high end properties now.I know my family home is next to a floodplain which can’t be more than five feet above sea level. It’s nice to be so close to the water but I have been thinking about moving to higher ground.I don’t need a catastrophe to convince me(SEEMS WE HAVE A CATASTROPHE COMING ALREADY!)
    thanks again for the quick response. I’ll be watching for a map which adresses the impact on other B.C. communities…P.Newman(Parksville-Qualicum)


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