National Risk Assessment 2017: Response 3: Rise in sea levels

I am very struck that Section 4.1 on Climate Change in 'National Risk Assessment 2017' is focused on atmospheric pollution without only one brief mention of flooding. No mention is made of the vast impact that a permanent rise in sea levels will have on this country: this is surely one of the greatest 'locked-in' impacts of climate change. Please obtain a copy of the latest National Geographic magazine (July 2017 edition): 'Special Report: Antarctica - The Crisis on the Ice' by Douglas Fox makes for chilling reading. The Irish Government's National Risk Assessment 2017 can be found here: <>. Estimates that Antarctica will 'sweat' off enough ice by 2100 to rise sea levels worldwide by 1.5 to 3.5 feet are accepted but conservative and do not take account of the many ice shelves and glaciers which are now melting at rates many, many times faster that scientists had expected or previously measured. Several ice shelves are losing ice above water at a great rate but more worryingly are losing ice at their bases even faster. 'Research indicates that the collapse of major glaciers that flow into the Amundsen Sea is now unstoppable". If the Thwaites Glacier alone broke down (which scientist are very concerned about) it alone would increase sea levels worldwide by 4 feet. "If Totten Glacier were to collapse, sea level could rise 13 feet - threatening many of the world's great cities". 125,000 years ago when the world was only slightly warmer than it is now sea levels were 20-30 feet higher than they are. When CO2 levels were last as high as they are now sea levels were 70 feet higher (all quotes and stats from the article). To talk about these things sounds immediately alarmist and fanciful, but based on large, sophisticated scientific studies it is not. We need to accept that unprecedented changes in sea level in human history are now inevitable, and very great changes and perhaps quite fast changes are increasingly likely.  I suggest that this consultation of the 'National Risk Assessment 2017' should prompt a well-funded study on how Ireland will deal with specific changes in sea levels to be completed with consultation and clear costed actions within (let's say) the next two years. It should identify clear actions that are then funded, engineered and installed over the succeeding (let's say) five years. It should not be assumed we are planning to deal with an incremental change or that 2050 or 2100 are the time horizons we should consider. The scientists tell us that the situation is very hazardous, dynamic, accelerating and unpredictable. I suggest that amongst the unpalatable questions to be addressed are:1) What changes do 0.5m, 1 metre, 2 metre even 3 metre rises in sea levels make to our coastlines and estuaries?2) What does that then do to our urban centres?3) Which villages, towns can we not protect, or cease to protect for certain levels of changes?4) What river and flood barriers must we put in place in which urban centres in the next few years, where? (ref: Thames Flood barrier etc)5) Are their sections of some urban centres that are too expensive to save for certain sea level rises? 6) Should certain facilities be moved permanently to inland towns on higher ground in the near term (a new kind of decentralisation)? 7) How would displacement of people and local economies from littoral centres be managed? It is not enough to say that some landowners, some communities and therefore politicians don't want to face these questions. That does not serve Society. Clearly panic doesn't serve society either. Indeed it may be easier to put in place some measures while these sorts of changes still appear to be a long way away. When the Thames Flood Barrier was put in place it was seen as a prudent measure that supported business and quality of life. ew people comment that it is used much more often now than in the past.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

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