Sunday, July 23, 2017

Are We Ready for a ‘Managed Retreat’ from the Coasts — and from the Forests?

As climate change advances, BC’s Lower Mainland is likely to find itself between the devil and the deepening blue sea. (Photo Credit: BC Wildfire Service) Click to Enlarge.
Rising sea levels threaten the homes and livelihoods of hundreds of millions around the world.  The public has barely registered what this means, but climate scientists have been thinking about it for years.  ...

The scientists have considered various options.  One is to stand our ground, building walls high and thick enough to hold off the rising seas.  Just recently, we’ve learned how the Romans built sea walls with concrete that’s lasted for 2,000 years.

It’s an attractive technological solution because we love to live near the sea, and we have whole cities that could soon be under water.  The cost of losing them would be in the multi-trillions, and the walls would cost only multi-billions.

But a more realistic idea is called “managed retreat,” when communities at risk of submergence simply move to higher ground — like a tsunami alarm in slow motion.

Well, it’s realistic if both governments and coastal residents think it is.  A recent study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, gives us a sense of what would be involved.

After studying cases around the world that have resettled over a million people, the researchers found that a lot depends on who wants the resettlement.  If the government wants it and the residents don’t, trouble will follow.  But if the residents want to move and the government agrees, everyone benefits.

This model works fine if you’re dealing with a small Alaskan island or a patch of Dutch farmland.  It doesn’t work so well if the sea is threatening some very expensive real estate, like Vancouver’s.  A 2016 study looks at climate change adaptation in Manila, Lagos, and Vancouver.  All three cities are susceptible to both rising sea level and serious storm surges.

In Vancouver, we’re especially at risk along the shores of the North Arm of the Fraser, False Creek, and the harbor itself.  No one wants to write off the billions invested in those neighborhoods.

Read more at Are We Ready for a ‘Managed Retreat’ from the Coasts — and from the Forests?

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