Océans en santé. Communautés en santé

Rising Tides: Living Oceans tackles Sea Level Rise

September 27, 2018

Living Oceans is reaching out to coastal communities to help them begin to plan for sea level rise.  Roughly one in 10 people live in low-elevation coastal areas and many communities at risk are small in size, with little in the way of resources to commit to solutions. And solutions are needed soon:  for most of B.C.’s coastal communities, sea levels have already risen and are projected to rise by 0.5 m by 2050 and by 1 m by 2100.  Our project aims to start the conversation about appropriate adaptation measures and provide local governments and property owners with tools to cope with rising waters.

Protect, accommodate, retreat, avoid:  these are the four strategies for dealing with oceans encroaching on land and infrastructure. Within each strategy, there are numerous approaches that can be taken. Some have the added advantage of helping to mitigate the climate change that is causing the problem in the first place. Not surprisingly, some of the greenest solutions are also the least costly and, if implemented over time, the least disruptive of the community, too.

We’ve worked for twenty years on various projects to reduce greenhouse gases and prevent the warming that is leading to sea level rise. The plain fact is that there is so much CO2 in the atmosphere now that there is no way we can avoid rising waters. The B.C. guidance of 0.5 and 1 metre is in line with several European jurisdictions and reflects the current projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Different communities can expect different impacts, because there are a lot of factors at play here. Land, for one thing, does not stay still: it may be sinking or rising itself, so that the impact of rising oceans may be amplified or reduced accordingly. The shape of the sea-bottom and the profile of the land can also influence impacts from sea level rise, as they may be more or less conducive to storm surges and other wave effects. We will explore all these factors in our workshops.

Our project is part of a broader, pan-Canadian initiative of the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, called Educating Coastal Communities about Sea Level Rise (ECoAS). Funded partially by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, ECoAS is building a network of sea level rise practitioners to share resources and best practices, while motivating communities to begin the hard work of planning to deal with protecting public and private property. The project website, www.sealevelrise.ca, will house those resources and already contains an easy-to-maneuver website with an interactive map.  The map allows Canadians to share local stories of impacts and solutions. When completed, the site will have regionally specific tools and guidance.

With additional support from the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., Living Oceans will be offering workshops in 4 coastal communities over the coming fall/winter, two of which we hope to give in First Nations communities. We are grateful for support from the Islands Trust and Regional District of Mount Waddington, both of which have offered assistance in setting up the workshops.