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Foreshore nomoreshore

Written By: - Date published: 8:51 am, September 17th, 2009 - 15 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags:

Two chilling articles from last week’s Guardian Weekly just finished, both about the consequences of the world’s water getting warmer faster than expected.

The Greenland ice sheet is melting, “far faster than the climate models predicted and far more decisively than any political actions to combat our changing climate.” It’s worth a read – we could be looking at “a sea level rise of catastrophic proportions”. Scientists working at the poles are predicting a one-metre rise by 2100 – this “would require new defences for New York, London, Mumbai and Shanghai, and imperil swathes of low-lying land from Bangladesh to Florida. Vulnerable areas accommodate 10% of the world’s population – 600 million people.”

And the sockeye salmon are not spawning. According to an article in the same publication but not on-line, only 1.7 million salmon have returned to spawn in the Fraser River in British Columbia instead of the expected 10.6 million. “Salmon swim more slowly when water temperature is above 18C, with the first signs of sickness and death setting in at 20c”, and the river was recording 21C, 2.5C above normal. Fraser river salmon are restricted to First Nation fishers, and were expected to enter a “large abundance cycle”. Not any more.

While the temperature is also rising in the debate over the environment in New Zealand, these events give kaitiakitanga and the foreshore debate a whole new dimension. It’s time for urgency and long-term thinking.

15 comments on “Foreshore nomoreshore ”

  1. Byron 1

    “It’s not my Government’s ambition for New Zealand to be way out in front of other countries, but it is our view that we should be doing our fair share towards resolving this global problem,” – John Key

    What happened to ambitious for New Zealand?

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      He was never ambitious for NZ. He was only ever ambitious for his and his mates wallets. He wants NZ to stay where it is politically (faux dependent upon the capitalists) and preferably to take it back a few centuries to the time of absolute rule. This is quite obvious in the about urgency since NACT came to power and the repealof even a mildy effective ETS which was then replaced by one that funneled $1.2b of taxpayer money per year into the hands of the capitalists.

      AS: bought – he certainly has been.

  2. ben 2

    It’s time for urgency and long-term thinking.

    I’ll say it is. Quick, get the sunscreen. The umbrella. Holy crap, just ONE HUNDRED YEARS to get ready for a one meter increase in ocean levels.

    More seriously

    1. a centimeter a year is not free to deal with but next to it

    2. even if we “do something” that warming is locked in, partly because of lags and partly because climate policy doesn’t make much difference to emissions

    3. the world that will have to deal with this 1m increase 100 years from now will be immeasurably wealthier than we are. What’s the argument for us comparative poorlings to needlessly make sacrifices for our much richer descendants?

    For context, atmospheric pressure causes variation of amplitude 2 meters, tides are betwen 0.2 and 10m, winds cause up to 5m variation, ocean topography up to 1m, El nino 0.6m. We DAILY comfortably deal with more variation than this century-long warming effect. Can you explain what is the problem with sea levels again?

    • Armchair Critic 2.1

      Wild stab in the dark here – it is because it is an extra metre, additional to all the other variations in sea level.
      Combine that with lots of land near the coast being relatively flat, and that flat land being preferred for habitation by people because the flat land is generally more fertile and maybe you can start to see the potential for problems.

    • Maynard J 2.2

      1: Right… well I might just pretend all’s well then.

      2: you can hardly say it is not through lack of trying, when we have not tried.

      What is this ‘locked in’, you are not playing millionaire. There are CO2 levels at which the problem will be exacerbated, and we need to act to prevent reaching those levels.

      3: Because it is the base-level that is changing. Fairly obvious there mate.

      I mean, a storm surge is only a pressure variation, and it is not like they have killed millions of people…oh wait. Now imagine them starting a fair bit higher.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.3

      100 years from now will be immeasurably wealthier than we are.

      The way the economy works to be wealthier we (or our descendants) need to have more natural resources available to us (them). We hit Peak Oil sometime in the last two years. This means that, from now on, the natural resources available to us decreases as the energy available to extract those resources declines. This won’t be immediately apparent but will be noticeable in 10+ years.

      In 100 years our descendants aren’t going to be immeasurably wealthier than we are, they’re going to be significantly poorer and have to deal with a chaotic weather system (not the nice and benign one we have) and risen sea levels that would have swamped huge amounts of farm land and driven ~1billion or more people out of their homes.

      • ben 2.3.1

        Draco, how about putting your money where your mouth is?

        I’d be more than happy to make a bet with you on living standards going up. In fact its the easiest money I’ll make, ignoring time discounting 🙂

        I don’t know about you but I’m just young enough to make a 50 year bet. We could do lots of things ,like the global average real wage then, or better yet the number of hours labour required to buy a ton of bread at the then global average wage, or something. This will badly understate the improvement in living standards because it will understate quality improvements, but I’ll comfortably give you that margin.

        Case of wine in 2059 to the winner?

    • lprent 2.4

      The problem is that a one metre increase is the least that probably can now be expected. Personally I’m expecting something closer to 5 metres and would not be surprised by more over the century.

      It is unlikely to slowly rise, it will be punctuated with fast rises over short periods as various ice sheets disintegrate.

      Sea level rises, bad as they are, are one of the lesser problems. The biggest issue will be the climate changes impacting on agriculture, massive increases in refugees fleeing famine or storm driven coastal flooding (think New Orleans). The probability of that leading to wars is pretty high..

      But of course you don’t have enough intelligence to think of more than one bit of spin at a time… There is a word for people like you – “sucker”

      • ben 2.4.1

        Yes, fair call, I was selective picking out the sea level stuff, there are other things as you point out.

        My basic point though is that people will be in a very very good position to deal with gradual change. They will be wealthier, have clever technology, and be more mobile. Gradual changes have happened previously, with sea level rises and higher snow lines and so on, and adaptation is barely perceptible and affects few people.

        I get the prevention vs ambulance at the bottom of the cliff argument, but at some point the bang for the buck on prevention becomes so low that dealing with consequences is cheaper. The Stern revuew, notwithstanding the extraordinary contortions it had to go through to show action now is cheaper, actually shows this.

        • lprent 2.4.1.1

          Think punctuated changes in the order of

          1. Massive changes in weather patterns over a couple of years with longer periods of stability between. Shifts in weather patterns aren’t and won’t be gradual. They obey state-shift forms far more than being continuous, think of the effects of el nino or having a off-route hurricane.

          In human terms, everything is sweet and then a drought or massive storm pattern comes out of no-where. As you probably know, most economic activity is based on roughly the same thing happening from period to period rather than the extremities. That is why we have low feed stocks relative to the medium-term risk of a bad year. If the frequency goes up, then so must the reserves.

          Agriculture is the most susceptible to those types of phase shifts in weather because it is always based on expected events. Factor into your costs having to hold food stocks far higher than we do now because the weather patterns will be shifting with far more rapidity than they have in the human civilization past.

          2. Same thing with inundations. Currently the main cause of flooding in places is weather, not sea levels. Higher energy in the climate systems means bigger and rougher storms more frequently. On the coast lines this will translate into more storm surges, which in turn cause estuary induced flooding up river valleys on high tides. The problem again is that it is punctuated. The river bank defenses tend to over-whelm suddenly. There is a reason that the Dutch are massively beefing up their dikes now rather than when they have bigger storms in 10-20 years. The investment has to be made up front.

          Something like 40% of the worlds population lives in floodplain areas, and an even higher proportion of the food is grown there.

          3. The main sealevel rises will tend to be rapid. Ice doesn’t gradually melt. It goes ‘rotten’ and then ruddy great lumps slough off all at once as a whole structure collapses. Some of the susceptible sheets can add 10’s of cm’s to sealevel on their own. If they do, then it will happen over a year or so.

          Thinking that this stuff will happen gradually is just daft. This is weather and climate, not human activity.

          I won’t even go into the feedback issues that are even more worrying. They’re the types of things that cause a human centuries worth of greenhouse gases to be released in a year or so – because our contribution warmed them up enough.

          I’d also point out that I’m a massive techno-geek – not to mention a scifi and history addict. However I also know exactly how fragile the systems that support human technologies and systems are. Bad weather has a habit of destroying them easily – try Queensland floods last year to find out how fast they go down. You put in assistance and resources from outside to get past the disaster shock. What happens when there is no outside, because the weather is crap everywhere too often.

  3. Classical Liberal 3

    Before you panic, read this week’s New Scientist.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17742-worlds-climate-could-cool-first-warm-later.html

    Could mean we’ve got more time?

    “Another favourite climate nostrum was upturned when Pope [UK Met Office] warned that the dramatic Arctic ice loss in recent summers was partly a product of natural cycles rather than global warming. Preliminary reports suggest there has been much less melting this year than in 2007 or 2008.”

    • lprent 3.1

      Nope. It simply means that they have identified more of the underlying patterns…

      In candid mood, climate scientists avoided blaming nature for their faltering predictions, however. “Model biases are also still a serious problem. We have a long way to go to get them right. They are hurting our forecasts,” said Tim Stockdale of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, UK.

      Of course that means that scientifically illiterate CCD’s like you start wetting your jocks.

      Did you notice that this is a regional effect that they were discussing – confined to the Northern Atlantic and bordering continents. Did you notice that this is not confirmed, it is a regional theory with some backing evidence, that now has to be confirmed. Theories like this are a dime a dozen, they usually get turned over when someone has a closer look at the available evidence.

      Basically you look like yet another boring and ill-informed CCD, so I guess you won’t be able to discuss what this theory actually means…

  4. So Bored 4

    Better strip some sand away from the beaches now so that climate change deniers have something to stick their heads into.

    I think we can say goodbye to any ability to mitigate the damage from climate change, resource depletion and species termination. As a species humans are unique in their ability to believe in conceptual things such as money whilst refusing to see very real monsters right under their noses. And the more money you have it seems the less you are prepared to see.

  5. George D 5

    This is absolutely worth watching – James Balolg of the Extreme Ice Survey gives a TED Talk.

    Stunning visuals. Watch as cubic kilometres of ice disappear before your eyes.

    • Macro 5.1

      Yeah was going to suggest people have a look at that as well – It is something EVERY politician should view.
      If ever there is a sight that action is need now that is it!

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