Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The British Government Has Done It. The Aussies Too. Why Won't Steve Harper?

Every coastal nation knows that people like to live along shorelines.   Oh sure there are people willing to live in places like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, but most of us live within a short hop of the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Arctic Ocean or the Great Lakes.   These are places where we build ports, where we start and end railway lines and highways.  They're also places where we build our biggest cities.

But coastal development carries risks.   One that we didn't foresee was climate change-driven, sea level rise.  No one can be sure just how much global sea levels will rise this century from the loss of glaciers and melting icepacks.   A very conservative estimate is at least one metre.  At the worrisome end of the scale are estimates of many metres, possibly tens of metres.

A generally conservative mind would look for something between the best case scenario and a mid-range estimate - two metres, possibly three?  Then you overlay your chosen figure on existing topographical maps to chart out areas of possible submergence and those at risk of inundation from periodic high tides and storm surges.   That gives you extremely valuable information you can release well in advance to local authorities and the public.   That gives them essential time to review adaptation strategies and to decide which areas are at such risk that they should be off-limits to further development.

The Brits released this very sort of information to their people two years ago.  Last month the Australians produced "inundation maps" focusing on low-lying areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, south-east Queensland and the NSW central coast and Hunter regions.

We know L'il Stevie Harper is settled in landlocked Alberta so he probably doesn't have to fret about any of this but what about the rest of us?  What about all the Canadians in the Maritimes or those living along the shores of the Great Lakes?   What about coastal BC'ers?  Why aren't we getting this information?  That's the federal government's job.  This is exactly the sort of thing for which we pay taxes.  And if the Harper government is stalling, why isn't the supposed opposition going after them.   Is this what you get when you live in a petro-state?


doconnor said...

What about the sea side community of Churchill, Manitoba?

"those living along the shores of the Great Lakes"

Lake Ontario is 75m above sea level and the other great lakes are higher (Niagara Falls higher).

The Mound of Sound said...

Sorry, yes, you're right about the Great Lakes. In fact I recall a recent study noting that they're going to recede markedly through the decline of the western watershed. And if the U.S. gets desperate enough to tap Lake Michigan to relieve south/central drought it could be much worse. Canadians who think that could never happen should examine America's Colorado River water sharing treaty with Mexico. It's been a long time since the Colorado last reached Mexico.

And my sincere apologies to the good folks of Churchill. Having, many years back, worked in northern Manitoba my lapse is inexcusable.